Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Three Sisters - Wrapped up

The three sisters project has come to a close this year. We harvested and froze three bags (1 gallon each ) of corn, and had fresh corn on the cob nearly every night for a couple weeks. (Probably close to another half gallon.

We managed a couple meals of green beans - A rather embarrassing turnout, really. But the Zuchinni made up for that.

We had close to a dozen harvests like this one. Some ended up as bread, some were shredded and frozen, for later use in bread. Some went into salads and spaghetti sauce. Some were sliced and fried. And some became compost. The new application (which I have greatly enjoyed) is to slice them thinly, dry them to crispy, and use them as a replacement for chips in chips and salsa.(I recommend a little garlic salt before drying). Who new chips and salsa could be health food, right?

The pumpkins did very well also.

Too bad nobody in my house likes pumpkins. Oh well, they make great decorations, and will add to the compose pile. I might try to harvest an roast the seeds this year (though we will replant some as well). I am tempted to give pumpkin soup a try. What else can you do with pumpkins?
Here is one last look at the garden.

And here is a few days later after my sons Anakin and Yoda demolished the trade federation  corn troopers with their light sabres.

Pretty thorough, those two lads...

So, the experiment is done for this year. Lessons learned?

If I were to do it again, I would do pits rather then mounds, to reduce erosion, and to keep my watering efforts more controlled. I might also double plant the beans, to improve likelihood of success (that, or start and transplant). I would also wait an extra week or two on the pumpkins/squash, to ensure the beans had a good head start. Once the corn and squash start to fill out, if the beans are well established, they will get choked out and starved for sunlight by the other two.

That said, I probably won't repeat next year, for the following reasons:

1. Harvesting the beans is a pain,you have to step in and around the pumpkin vines, and hunt through the corn for them.
2. I don't have deer or racoon problems, so I don't really need the pumpkin vines to protect the corn and beans.
3. I can achieve the same (or better) weed control as provided by the pumpkins around the corn and beans, by planting a low growing green manure after the corn/bean plants are established (something like a red clover). Many green manures also serve the function of nitrogen fixing.
4. I can get the same soil building benefits by using crop rotation techniques. Plant a neat, tidy row of beans one year, and a neat, tidy row of of corn in that same spot the next year.

Nonetheless, it was a very enjoyable experiment. And it looked pretty cool too.

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