Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Garden Update: My Version of the Three Sisters

Native Americans grew vegetables using the three sisters as a staple.  The three sisters consist of corn grown in hills, pole beans grown up the corn for support and pumpkins or squash grown between the hills. The three plants are perfect companion plants and seem to thrive when together.

This year, I tried using the three sisters method. However, my interpretation of this type planting is probably a bit different from both the early Native Americans and most other modern gardeners.

First:  I used an experimental hybrid sweet corn. My choice had nothing to do with efficient gardening, I got the seeds for free. It seemed like a perfect way to put them to good use.  You are supposed to plant the corn in a mound of dirt - I didn't do that because it was hot outside and I didn't want to stay out in the heat. Since I planted them on a whim anyway, I didn't do a whole lot of soil preparation.  Instead, I made a mini mound out of commercial potting soil and then added some fertilizer.  Then I mulched with pine straw.

Second:  I planted Seminole Pumpkins for the squash.  Even though these plants are called pumpkins, they act and taste more like winter squash.  They do extremely well here in the hot and humid south.  Bugs don't bother them and they are highly disease resistant.  A perfect winner in my book. They went in the raised beds about 20 feet away from the corn and are growing in the direction of the corn. I suspect they will also surround my fig tree before they are done this fall.

Third:  I planted some pole beans that I bought two years ago but never used.  They are called Kentucky Blue.  They are a cross between Kentucky Wonder and Blue Lake.  Both of  these two pole beans are open pollinating (OP's).  And the cross produced a stable OP called Kentucky Blue.  I am excited to finally try them. The beans went in last - I just planted them about 9 days ago.  They are now up and growing.

All of these plants are 'late' plantings (too late if you listen to the experts).  However, I have approximately 85 days from today until my first average frost so I routinely plant summer crops until late July.  I just make a mental note to plant varieties that will produce within a 90 day window.  All three of these plants will produce this year.

Here is my three sisters garden.  Since the beans just came up, you can't see them in this picture yet.

Here is one of the beans.

I also transplanted one of the tobacco plants to the front yard landscaping.  This one is right by my front door.  I noticed all the tobacco had aphids on them when I planted this one.  Easy enough to fix, I washed most of them off with the hose and then sprayed each plant with tomato leaf spray.  You can find out how to make tomato leaf spray here.

 Tobacco in my front yard landscaping.

I planted the last 100 green beans last week as well. To can the green beans this year, I had to order a new dial pressure gauge for my pressure canner. The old one didn't pass the calibration test at the county extension office. I am glad I didn't plant all 260 green beans at the same time! My freezer would not have been able to hold them all. The new pressure gauge should be here next week and I can start canning. 

I am up to 45 summer squash and counting.  I hope I can make it to 200 by October 1st. I need at least 121 to make it all year without buying any, however, I would like to get to 200.  At this rate, I think the final number may be closer to 160.

Nothing yet is happening with the soapwart seeds. But, I FINALLY got the woad to germinate!  I am thrilled - next year I can use it to dye some of the yarn I am spinning.  If you haven't read any of the previous garden update postings, woad has been used for centuries to dye yarn.  It would be very common to see woad growing in herb gardens of centuries past.  I have had a bit of difficulty getting this to grow in my garden- but not any more!  I will take a picture and show you when the plants get a few true leaves. 

I hope you are having a fun and successful season in your garden this year!

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