Corn, Beans, Squash


I grow a lot of corn, pole beans, bush beans, and winter squash in my gardens although I plant them in separate areas. My growing methods are a variation on the Three Sisters method and use those parts of several traditional methods that work best here.

Mixed with the corn are many tomatillo and bush summer squash plants a blend of the Three Sisters and milpa. Bush varieties of summer squash do well if they are planted on the outer rows about one to two weeks after the corn comes up. The yields are good enough for fresh summer eating. For winter supplies I grow large beds of summer squash separately. Often half of one freezer is summer squash.

The pole beans and winter squash grow too large for my short corn plants and will pull them over so they get their own growing sites with poles and ropes to climb on. To attract bees to my all my squash beds I plant mixes of buckwheat, cilantro, peas, and mustard. Sometimes I plant sunflowers, too.

If I had to estimate what percentage of my gardens are corn, beans, and squash I would put the number at a little more than 10%. That may seem like a small number but each year the squash yields between 500 and 800 pounds. Some of that is for chicken and sheep feed during the winter but a lot goes into pies, soups, breads, cookies, bean dishes, and pasta sauces.

The corn and bean yields are variable but each season there are enough string beans in the freezer for two years. Dry bean yields have been low but for sometime my goals were to save seeds of heirloom varieties and work on adapting them to this climate. This year I will harvest some red beans for food. I’ve been growing this unknown variety off and on for several years. It produces abundantly and quickly. Next year I will be planting it in a larger area and also Yellow Indian Woman bean. I’ve grown this one before and have been saving seeds from it each year I planted. The last crop was in 2012 so it is time to renew the seed supply. Yellow Indian Woman is a good a half-runner type of drying bean and produces heavily. The flavor is good which, to me at least, has smokey overtones, and the texture is firm not mushy.

The corn from last year filled a 20 gallon can and that was a poor harvest year. This year I am expecting larger corn harvests partly because I have planted more. But the corn is producing better, too, a result of my selecting large cobs and cobs from plants that produce two ears per stalk. And I’m trying a new corn variety, Dakota Ivory White, which looks to be as good a producer as my Painted Mountain Corn.

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