Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Three Sisters

The Iroquois Indians used to plant corn, beans and squash together as companion crops. They each provide nutrients that can be utilized by the others and each draws out different nutrients from the soil. The pole beans utilize the corn stalks to grow and the squash plants help keep down weeds between rows. We ran our own experiment this last year with mixed results. We planted corn like you normally would with about 10 rows of corn and then planted the beans next to the corn and the squash between the rows. This created a couple of problems. One it was very difficult getting around as the space between corn stalks was all taken (and then some) by the squash so harvesting was difficult. I am also not sure the beans got enough sunlight, or at least for some reason we did not get great yields on the beans, although we did on the corn. The other problem I realized is that we planted summer squash in the corn as well which was very difficult to find and we had some get too large before we realized they were there.

Next year we will do things a little bit different, firstly we will plant summer squash separately to easy the harvest of zucchini and other summer squash. We will also plant the corn and beans in squares or circles and leave 3-4 feet between the squares and plant squash in the rows so there is more room to get around. We will plant the beans along the outside 1 or 2 rows to make sure they have adequate sunlight and so we can track their progress more easily. We were able to get a good harvest in a relatively small space, next year we hope to do even better.

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