|Pumpkin vines crowd space between cornstalks.|
Way back when, before Europeans discovered the New World, the native American Indians raised corn, beans and pumpkins/squash together as mutually beneficial plants, but what they raised is not what most of us today want to serve at our dinner table. The corn was dry field corn, what we feed now to livestock, not succulent sweet corn to be picked at just the right moment in its development. The beans would have been dry beans that could be stored and used during the winter months. Most of us who grow beans in our backyard gardens don't have room for rows of dry beans. When we think "bean," we think "green beans." Beans are a part of this guild to fix nitrogen and twine up cornstalks to help stabilize this tall, shallow-rooted plant, so bush beans don't fully qualify here. Consider what it means to have a vine growing around a cornstalk. That vine can (oh, yes, this happens!) wrap around an ear of corn and snug it to the stalk. To harvest the corn, you have to disturb (cut, untangle, whatever) the vine, which will affect your bean harvest. Meanwhile, the pumpkins and/or squash are spreading through the corn, making walking among them difficult without damaging--something.
|Sweet corn grown in hills among the Three Sisters.|
If I harvest any beans from my Three Sisters they will be for use as seeds as I cannot reach them to harvest for fresh use. I don't have any idea how the pumpkins and squash in the center of the patch are doing as I don't want to force my way in there to look. I did have borers on one of the pumpkin plants near the edge of the patch. I cut the vine and, I hope, killed the worms, then covered the damaged vine with damp dirt. It hasn't greened up very well, but neither has it died. Not being able to check and treat for borers is a definite handicap!
So, what do you think: will you try planting the Three Sisters?