Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Growing 'The Three Sisters' – part 4

In early July I showed photos of the sweetcorn, squash and climbing beans in the 'Three Sisters' bed and wrote about how they were growing rapidly. I promised to show you the beans and sweetcorn in flower – sun, heat and rain have resulted in massive growth over the past month . . .

Here is part 4 of Magic Cochin's method of growing The Three Sisters . . .

(Continuing from part 3)

This is what 'The Three Sisters' look like today – the climbing beans 'Poletschka' have reached the top of the wigwam and some are using the sweetcorn stems for support, the
'Honey Bantam' sweetcorn plants have grown tall and strong and the squash plants are spreading out across the grass surrounding the mound. Apart from watering the plants when they were first planted out we haven't needed to water them since. I know we are having a rainy summer, but here in West Suffolk we have had at least a week of temperatures around 30C and strong drying winds, 'The Three Sisters' have thrived and even when the squash leaves wilt slightly in the afternoon sun they soon recover in the evening.

Sweetcorn 'Honey Bantam' – the flower spikes at the top of the plants are the male flowers, the wind shakes the pollen out and it sprinkles down onto the female flower tassels which are on the top of embryo corn cobs in the leaf axles below. You can see that some of the beans climbing up through the strong stems of the corn.

Here is one of the embryo corn cobs with the silky female tassels emerging from the top.

Climbing Bean 'Poletschka' – these Ukrainian heritage beans can be eaten as green beans but I think that the mature beans are so beautiful that it's worth holding off until they are mature. They have grown extremely fast, I took this photograph of one of the pretty mauve flowers a few weeks ago.

When I searched under the large green bean leaves this morning there were bunches of long pale green pods swelling with the maturing beans.

Squash 'Winter Festival' x courgette
– Last month I was convinced that I had mistakenly planted a yellow courgette in 'The Three Sisters' mound. But now I'm not so sure, here are two 'Gold Rush' courgettes on the right and one from 'The Three Sisters' on the left. After some research in the Seeds of Kokopelli manual I realise that 'Winter Festival' squash and courgettes are both varieties of Cucurbita pepo and could easily cross pollinate.

I've left the remaining friuts to mature – Squaurgette or Coursh 'Magic Cochin'! You can see how I slip a tile under the fruit so it isn't sitting directly on the damp grass, this keeps the fruit dry and relatively unblemished. Sometimes a root grows from the underside of the node on the stem where the leaf and fruit stem emerge, allow this to grow down into the soil so the plant can gain extra water and nutrients.

The other two squash are varieties of Curcurbita maxima and were grown from seeds collected from last years crop, these are likely to be hybrids too. This is the un-named large dark orange variety, it is developing a lovely stripy central boss.

This is the plant grown from seed saved from last year's 'Marina di Chioggia' squash. Not quite as warty and reptilian as she should be and with a stripy centre like the orange one. There are more smaller fruits on all the plants, so it looks like we'll have a good crop this autumn.

And here's an added bonus – a breakfast bouquet of honey perfumed squash flowers and freshly picked chives to chop finely and add to our scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Part 5 will show our harvest of sweetcorn.


  1. They're looking so lush! Lovely idea to put squash flowers and chives in your scrambled eggs. I bet that's delicious.

    Sweetcorn straight from the plant is such a treat - can't wait to see them when they're ripe.

  2. I've been harvesting my sweetcorn since yesterday! Just perfect - I boil the saucepan of water before I pick the corn so they are 'still squealing' when they are cooked. I haven't quite mastered the timing of the planting of my climbing beans round them. I thought that if I planted them together the beans might overwhelm them, instead the corn has been so vigorous that the beans aren't getting enough light to climb up! Will keep trying next year. Thanks for your inspiration.

  3. I thought the last was a snail! :o

  4. This is such a brilliant growing method, I am going to try it when we have space!

  5. David - fingers crossed for some sun first!

    Silverpebble - Lush indeed! We're looking forward to the sweetcorn.

    Matron - lucky lucky you! It's trial and error with The Three Sisters. Next year I will give the sweetcorn more head room, I think they are a bit shaded and sheltered by the bean poles. But we've never had such vigorous growth before - I put that down to all the chicken poo!!!!

    Adekun - LOL! I see what you mean!


  6. PG - If you have a small garden I'm sure you can do a small scale two sisters version with a bush cougette and a few beans grown up a small wigwam.


  7. It is such a perfect system-tried and tested and found to work so well. Squauregettes.Great word. Let us know how it develops.

  8. We're growing squash for the first time and the plants have gone mad. It's quite exciting to see the mini squash appearing.

    Do we need to trim the plant back now the fruit is growing.

  9. Threadspider - I find the traditional planting methods from cultures around the world fascinating and you can learn a lot from them.

    Jules - good luck with your squash. If you have room I wouldn't cut them back - some people remove embryo fruit and leave one or two to get enormous, but realistically smaller ones are more useful in the kitchen! If the plants are getting out of hand you could stop the end - so the runner can't grow longer, but the leaves and the roots are what are fueling growth.


  10. Wow! this is the garden I dream about. We are in the heart of winter and everything is bare so it's lovely to see your garden bursting with life. We are up to part 1 of the The Three Sisters - looking forward to telling you ho w it goes when we move to the next step. How are those under gardeners? Haven't seen them for a while!

  11. Hi Chooks'r'us - good luck with your Three Sisters, chook poo is a magic ingredient!
    The under gardeners say 'hello', they are a bit fed up with the rain this week, but they're very relieved that I have got the red mite crisis under control!


  12. I tried this idea last year and it sort of worked but this years's version started a bit late in the season and my plot is way behind any of the beds mentioned. The weather in Cornwall has been pants so that hasn't helped either. I seem to remember I got the idea from a programm that Carol Klein did a few years back.


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