I planted a three sisters garden the first year that I planted my front yard garden. It was enough of a success to make me want to do it again. I let two years go by until planting our next three sisters garden. I made some refinements in the timing of planting as well as variety selection for this garden. Now, that harvest is complete; it is very clear how polycultures can serve to bring diversity and abundance to diet and landscape while reducing inputs.
I planted out 11 mounds five feet apart. These mounds included a good amount of garden compost. I pretty much followed the spacing that is described in this article. For this small area, I raised the 44 corn seedlings indoors to transplant as we have no protection from munchers in our garden. Soon thereafter, I transplanted squash plants between the hills of corn. I used only varieties of Cucurbita moschata because they are resistant to vine borers which I’ve tried and failed to battle in the past. Everything was mulched well to prevent need for much weeding or watering. When the corn was a foot high or so, I planted the beans.
Because I had little time to visit or tend this garden, it was my intention to plant varieties that could sit on the vine or stalk to dry or cure without my worrying about frequent harvesting. The strategy worked wonderfully.
The heirloom varieties in our three sisters garden:
Bloody Butcher Corn, an heirloom dent corn which dries to gorgeous reds. It can, also, be eaten fresh in the young milk stage. The stalks grew 10-12 foot high. A few of the stalks (maybe one in six) did break in a storm which reduced the climbing height for the beans. There were one to two ears per stalk, mostly, one beautiful full ear.
Waltham Butternut, Greek Sweet Red, Kikuza, and Black Futsu. These are all cultivars of Cucurbita moschata. Baker Creek Seeds opened the door for me to wonderful varieties that I never knew existed. Sure, I like butternut but there is a world of C. moschata out there! I’ve, so far, cured, roasted, and tasted the Kikuza. In, the picture below, Kikuza is the tan ribbed squash. I will grow these next year for sure! I’ve, yet, to taste the Futsu or Sweet Red.
Last but not least were the pole beans. I chose Turkey Craw because they climb and they are good fresh or used as a dried soup bean. They were prolific and they are beautiful as a dried bean. I’ve, yet, to cook some up!