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The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

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The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Banned Member on 4/1/2017, 4:26 pm

I am attempting to do a 3 sisters garden in one of our 4 x 4 squares, maybe in more than one.

We are going with 4 sisters, adding bee balm to try to beg the bees to return.

I have been in a bit of a stall due to not knowing if it will work, especially since I don't want to use the types of corn, bean, and squash that were historically used.

I am going to experiment with the varieties we like to eat, and if it should not happen to come out all that well, then at least we will know what not to do next time.

CORN
My wife and I really don't consume corn all that much, because we don't have the best teeth in the world, and I usually butcher myself with floss trying to get the kernels out.  My wife wants to plant a variety of popcorn called "Pennsylvania Butter-Flavored," and as long as the corn plant is sturdy and tall enough, that is fine with me.  For my own desires, I consider the corn stalks to be very cost-efficient stakes for the beans.  

We are also considering a sweet variety, but I am getting anxious from reading too much material about what may or may not work.  The last time we grew corn, it went higher than the gutters of the house, and it survived a severe thunderstorm with hurricane force winds, so I am trying to convince myself that any well-nourished corn plant will be strong enough to hold 4 pole bean plants. 

I am open to suggestions from anybody here.  What tastes great, has good sturdy stalks, and is suited for a hot and humid climate?

Beans
Once again, the wife is going to get what she wants here.  We are prolific haricot eaters.  I love taking a pole bean off the garden and eating it raw.

We have always used Kentucky Wonder or some other similar pole variety, but this year, when the Baker Creek Catalog came, she spotted the Chinese long beans, and it was like a lonely puppy with its guilt-causing puppy dog eyes, and she just had to have this.  So, we have ordered them. 

However, I am a bit worried that these will be too heavy, so we could still grow the long beans elsewhere and go with Kentucky Wonder in the 3 sis.  KY Wonder do incredibly well here, to the point where we have to give away a lot of beans, before they become has beans.

Squash
Not to sound like a broken record, by my wife loves Zucchini, and we eat it raw and cooked like goldfish will keep eating their fish food as long as they have it.  We also like winter squash, and my wife loves Delicata.  There is a variety called Delicata Zeppelin available from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and that is the one we ordered.  We will try some with zukes and some with Delicata.

Other
We will have enough corn seed left to plant an entire 4x4 square.  I have seen online that with twice weekly compost tea feedings as well as very compost-enriched soil, that a fellow SFGer grew 65 corn plants in 1, 4x4.  That is probably where the popcorn will be planted.

We will apply compost tea on Mondays and Thursdays, or at least that is our grand plan.

Our biggest concern is a raccoon issue.  We have raccoon problems out here.  They are big pests.  They get in people's attics and crawl spaces.  They even get into people's garages, and one resident in this area had to get rid of his dog door when they started coming inside his house. Corn is their catnip.  Supposedly, growing zucchini might deter them a little, because they do not want to be scratched by the spiky thingies on the plant.  I don't see how this could work with all that fur, but maybe we will be lucky.

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2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  newbeone on 4/2/2017, 12:10 pm

Sounds like a fun experiment send some pictures of Your progress, After trying to tie my zucchini up on a tomato tower yesterday I know scratchy.
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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Banned Member on 4/2/2017, 2:58 pm

Okay, here you go with some pictures.  There isn't much to look at, as I just finished raking the new compost and humus into the first 4X4 that will house the 3 Sisters.  BTW, I was listening to old-time radio on my phone while working outside this AM, and the Andrews Sisters's song Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy was one of the songs played.  So, I may have to call this first garden, Patty for the corn, Maxine for the Beans, and LaVerne for the squash--LOL

Here is what the square looks like just after it has been improved.  I am using green metal pipe to separate the squares, as I did not have to pay for them, and they were easy enough to saw into 11 1/2 inch pieces.

Here is a sampling of our compost from our slow compost pile at the end of our property by the woods.  No neighbors can see or smell it.  We have a 6 foot long by 4 foot wide by 4 foot tall pile, or I should say had.  It's down about 16 to 18 inches after we used a lot of it up.  This is in the wheelbarrow making its commute to the square shown above.



We have acres of woods in our back yard and side yard.  One of the benefits of having these woods is that I can take a spade and remove an inch of really fungal-rich humus and incorporate it into our finished compost.  It supplies the mycorrhizae to help our seedlings get off to a great start.  It also occasionally supplies a couple of weed seeds, but it is easy enough to weed them early.

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  ralitaco on 4/2/2017, 11:48 pm

TNGeezer wrote:BTW, I was listening to old-time radio on my phone while working outside this AM, and the Andrews Sisters's song Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy was one of the songs played.  So, I may have to call this first garden, Patty for the corn, Maxine for the Beans, and LaVerne for the squash--LOL
lol!


TNGeezer wrote:Here is a sampling of our compost from our slow compost pile at the end of our property by the woods.
Looks good! I too have a slow compost pile...really it was a hot compost pile attempt that failed. I have to sift it but it should be good to go now.


TNGeezer wrote:We have acres of woods in our back yard and side yard.  One of the benefits of having these woods is that I can take a spade and remove an inch of really fungal-rich humus and incorporate it into our finished compost.  It supplies the mycorrhizae to help our seedlings get off to a great start.
Can you explain to me what you are digging up? I have woods at the end of my road and I have a natural area in my front yard. I have heard people talk about getting leaf mold from the woods.

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Banned Member on 4/3/2017, 12:08 am

First, I only choose the parts of the woods where only honeysuckle is growing, since it is invasive.  To remove a honeysuckle, you must uproot it entirely, as it will come back twice as strong if you cut it to the ground.

When I dig up a honeysuckle, the top inch or so of the ground is a layer of fungal-rich humus.

You can tell the difference, as if you go down too deep, you hit topsoil.  That's good stuff too, but I don't want to rob topsoil from the woods.

This humus is also used as part of our compost tea blend.

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Banned Member on 4/13/2017, 2:36 pm

After much contemplation and a flip of a coin, I have finally come to a final decision on which varieties to plant in the 3 sisters.

Corn--Silver Queen
1. Grows 8 feet high
2. Very sweet tender kernals
3. Very productive

Beans--Kentucky Wonder
1. Heavy production of 9" pods and mostly stringless if you pick them before they get pithy
2. They are delicious and edible raw at the 3/4 size stage
3. An heirloom

Squash--Black Beauty Zucchini
1. Personally, this has been the most productive summer squash for us
2. Very productive and produces quickly
3. Makes great zucchini bread

While we were out, I went ahead and got two varieties of cucumbers to plant--Burpee Burpless Beauty and Park Seed National Pickling Cucumber.

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  ralitaco on 4/14/2017, 12:52 am

I read that the key to a successful 3 sisters garden is to let the corn grow to about 6" tall before planting your beans and squash.

Also, I thought you were supposed to use vining squash for the 3 sisters.

Can't wait to see how it turns out

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Turan on 4/14/2017, 1:13 am

Nice to see some one excited about the 3 Sisters again!
There are several old threads about this, quite a few of us did variations a couple years ago.  I thought seriously of doing heirlooms from the tribes around here that grew the 4 Sisters (they included sunflowers along one edge).  I learned the corn needs to be up and started before planting the beans and squash, or they will out grow it.  It is not easy to try and pick green beans from the center of a mass of vines and corn stalks, nor is it easy to pick the ears of corn.  Kentucky Wonder make a fine dry bean and sweet corn dried and ground makes yummy corn bread.  Keep the squash so it runs around the patch, not in it, or it will smother everything.

Good luck!

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Banned Member on 4/14/2017, 11:47 am

Before I go totally mental on this topic, I have just received 11th hour advice from a local farmer telling me to forget the 3 sisters and go with just 2 sisters--corn and beans.

He told me to plant the two in an intensive manner, leaving no room for squash or the need for the squash to squash out the weeds.

According to Ray, the squash is just a mulch for weed prevention, and if you fill up the squares so that there is no room for weeds, you don't need to waste all the space on the squash.  Additionally, I was advised here yesterday that I needed vining squash and not the zucchini I have purchased.

I plan on placing the corn in the ground this afternoon, even already have the kernals soaking in water to help them sprout.

Now, I am not sure whether to adjust my plan where I would take the inner 4 squares of the 4x4 and plant 4 corn per square, then 2 more corn in each adjacent square to those inner 4 and with 2 beans in the outer half of those adjacent squares and then with one zucchini in each of the outer corners.

Then, in my old dirt + compost squares, I would put 4 corn per square with 4 beans around each corn, and then after every 4 squares, I would place a zucchini.  For a 25 foot long by 2 foot wide rectangle, I could get 10 zucchini plants, 80 corn, and 80 beans.

Okay, to all my friends who are still sane, please advise.  Too much information has made me loco.  Who has done this successfully?

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Turan on 4/14/2017, 12:13 pm

Here is an old thread which continues through to results for a couple years. 
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t7757p125-three-sisters-thursday?highlight=three+sisters

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Banned Member on 4/14/2017, 1:22 pm

With all due respect, that thread and many others online are what's driving me to the funny farm instead of the square foot garden.

I have a 4 x 4 box reserved for the experiment, and I have enough corn seeds to also plant in the 1st generation 12 inches soil/compost SFG.

How should I plant the 4 x 4?  Imagine an Excel sheet with column A B C D and Row 1 2 3 4.  I cannot find a consensus of how to do it.  I was hoping that somebody that had one of those beautiful harvests in those pictures can knock some sense into my multiple concussed brain.

Also, with leftover seed, I have a 25 foot by 2 foot first generation rectangle of 12+ inch deep of black gold.  So, imagine Columns A thru Y and Row 1 & 2.

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Turan on 4/14/2017, 2:12 pm

Well, at some point you need to take the information given and go for it. 
MY suggestion is to listen to Ray and leave the squash out of the SFG.  There is not really enough room for it there, or just do one corner with a vining squash.   Plant the corn, and when it is 4" high plant the beans.  If the beans are ones you want to eat young and green only plant them in the outer squares, like you had planned to do. 

The threads show a multitude of ways this can work in a multitude of different areas.  Some where there is a diagram Mel did but it seems to have disappeared.  Memory says it was as you planned, but maybe fewer squash.

One thought on corn in Mels mix, it is not anchored well enough and falls over.  Prepare for this and give it a support like a horizontal grid about 18" above ground.

Good luck

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Banned Member on 4/14/2017, 2:40 pm

Turan, you just solved my problem entirely.  That statement about corn falling over in Mel's Mix just gave me 100% clarity.  

I am going to forego using the 4 x 4 raised bed for this experiment.  I don't want it to fall over, and why should I take that chance when I have ample space on the first generation SFG garden.  I have grown corn in that plot about 7 years ago, and I only stopped because the raccoons moved into the property.

Now, I know enough to stop those critters, hopefully.  I will plant the corn in the regular 12+ inch soil/compost with the beans using the corn as the trellis, and the zucchini protecting the corn with its little spiky things.

Thank you for replying before I began to plant.  You just made me feel 100% better.  
thanks thanks thanks thanks thanks

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Turan on 4/15/2017, 1:20 am

Glad to be of help Very Happy 

25x2 is a nice sized corn patch and it being narrow should make it easy-peasy to pick.

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Banned Member on 4/15/2017, 1:23 pm

Turan, thanks to you (and my wife, who actually dropped the kernals in the holes, while I handed them to her), we planted 116 kernals yesterday afternoon.  We placed stakes in the ground where the squash is to be planted, so that we could see where to leave a little extra space between corn.

What we saw was that there will be 13 squashes to plant, and even though we love zucchini, we don't love it enough to eat it 3 times a day, 7 days a week.  So, we will go get some yellow squash and Hubbard squash seeds today and go with 5 zukes, 5 yellow, and 3 Hubbard.

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Scorpio Rising on 4/15/2017, 3:00 pm

I can't wait to see your experiment unfold!
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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  ralitaco on 4/15/2017, 11:19 pm

@Scorpio Rising wrote:I can't wait to see your experiment unfold!
+1
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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Banned Member on 4/17/2017, 2:25 pm

@Scorpio Rising wrote:I can't wait to see your experiment unfold!

That is what I am worried about--it will all unfold. lol!

I am telling myself that this is an experiment, and whatever happens will be a good education in knowing either what to do, what else to do, or what not to do.

The big thing will be keeping the raccoons away from the corn, and I hope the squash deters them enough.  We might have more raccoons than humans in this neighborhood.  I know people feed them and even let them in their houses.

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  sanderson on 4/18/2017, 3:38 am

You must post photos of this experiment. Hint, hint

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Re: The 2017 attempt at 3 sisters (4 sisters)

Post  Banned Member on 4/18/2017, 10:46 pm

After 3 inches of rain the last two days, I hate to think what a photo taken tomorrow might look like after not being in the garden since the corn was planted last week.  I can predict what will be abundantly present--more weeds than I care to pull.  Our grass has grown over an inch since Thursday, and our woods have become thickly covered with greenery to the point where you can no longer see into them, except where the deer trails enter from our backyard.

Once I am well enough to weed the garden and the corn is up, I will take some photos and post.

Even our raised Mel's Mix beds are going to be full of weeds after five days away.

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