Three sisters follow up

Go corn go!

Go corn go!

Well, this is interesting. I’ve had some very helpful comments (thank you!) from Caro at urbanvegpatch and Sarah at thegardendeli who have experience of growing the ‘three sisters’ – that is, beans, sweetcorn and squash/pumpkins, growing together in a ‘polyculture’. (As mentioned in the original post here, the idea behind growing this way is that the beans climb up the towering sweetcorn, while the beans pay for their ride by fixing nitrogen, and the squash rambles all over, shading out the weeds.) Caro at Urbanvegpatch mentioned that UK bean varieties might be too vigorous, and swamp the corn. That was seconded by Sarah from Thegardendeli, who suggests that the traditional corn varieties in the Americas were much more robust than ours, and so were able to shoot ahead of the beans.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have childhood memories of running up and down the ‘lanes’ of sweetcorn at pick-your-own farms under a hot blue sky, the giant corn stalks high above me. Perhaps it was just that I was only 3 feet tall at the time, but those corn plants seemed huge – certainly compared to the puny stuff I grew last year, which barely rose above my daughter’s head. I do wonder if, here in the UK, our sweetcorn varieties are perhaps being selected for other things – sweetness, maybe? – rather than vigour. So next year, I might try hunting down some heritage (heirloom) varieties of beans and corn, to see if that helps the three sisters live together more amicably. Though I do fear that getting into heritage seeds will give me a whole new area of growing to be nerdy about…

5 responses to “Three sisters follow up

  1. Nothing nerdy about heritage seeds! (or does that just mark me out as a nerd?). I’ll be interested to see which varieties you choose.

  2. Pingback: Hidatsa Shield Beans « Richard's Blog·

  3. The sweet corn grows very tall in the South of France as well. I think that gardeners (rather than farmers) are only sold a selection of seeds that will be suited to their needs, i.e. more accessible! My mistake was to plant the corn in between the courgettes whose gigantic leaves swiftly put the corn in the shade!! Won’t make that mistake again – our UK corn needs plenty of sunlight. (Not that there’s much of that this year, even in the open ground!)

    • Hello, and thanks for visiting! I grew Swift last year, which did pretty well. Thanks for the Real Seed co link – I love their focus on helping people save seeds. I bought some comfrey and seeds from them this year.

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