Planting in mounds, Wampanoug technique

I was at Plimoth Plantation (Plymouth, Mass on Cape Code) yesterday and saw something interesting in the Wampanoug village. They plant multiple crops in mounds rather than single crops in furrows as we do. They plant 12 seeds to a mound, 4 corn, 4 bean and 4 melons. Corn is a nitrogen using crop, beans are a nitrogen fixing crop so they are symbiotic. Also it occurs to me that the corn stalk would provide a good pole for the beans. I'm thinking of using this technique this year, the theory makes a lot of sense.
Has anyone tried this technique?
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On 26 Apr 2009 12:52:37 GMT, General Schvantzkoph

I've played with it. It's called a Three Sisters garden and if you google it you'll find lots of info. I had a problem with the pole beans, but I think that's just me beig challenged by pole beans. :) The squash (or melons) shade the soil - a living mulch.
Have fun!
Kate
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When I tried just corn and beans, even with planting the beans a bit later the vines grew much faster than the cornstalks. Also, this technique is going to produce masses of tangled foliage, so probably not useful for picking immature green beans rather than at the dry stage. I suspect my soil fertility is not good enough to get away with the three sisters method.
Gary Woods AKA K2AHC- PGP key on request, or at home.earthlink.net/~garygarlic Zone 5/6 in upstate New York, 1420' elevation. NY WO G
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milpa
Milpa From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Milpa is a crop-growing system used throughout Mesoamerica. It has been most extensively described in the Yucatán peninsula area of Mexico. The word milpa is a Mexican Spanish term meaning "field," and is derived from the Nahuatl word phrase mil-pa "to the field" (Nahuatl mil-li "field" + -pa "towards"). Based on the ancient agricultural methods of Maya peoples and other Mesoamerican peoples, milpa agriculture produces maize, beans, lima beans and squash. The milpa cycle calls for 2 years of cultivation and eight years of letting the area lie fallow. Agronomists point out that the system is designed to create relatively large yields of food crops without the use of artificial pesticides or fertilizers, and they point out that while it is self-sustaining at current levels of consumption, there is a danger that at more intensive levels of cultivation the milpa system can become unsustainable. The word is also used for a small field, especially in Mexico or Central America, that is cleared from the jungle, cropped for a few seasons, and then abandoned for a fresh clearing. Charles C. Mann described milpa agriculture as follows, in 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (New York: Knopf, 2005, pp. 197-198): "A milpa is a field, usually but not always recently cleared, in which farmers plant a dozen crops at once including maize, avocados, multiple varieties of squash and bean, melon, tomatoes, chilis, sweet potato, jícama, amaranth, and mucana.... Milpa crops are nutritionally and environmentally complementary. Maize lacks the amino acids lysine and tryptophan, which the body needs to make proteins and niacin;.... Beans have both lysine and tryptophan.... Squashes, for their part, provide an array of vitamins; avocados, fats. The milpa, in the estimation of H. Garrison Wilkes, a maize researcher at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, "is one of the most successful human inventions ever created." It should be noted that the concept of milpa is a sociocultural construct rather than simply a system of agriculture. It involves complex interactions and relationships between farmers, as well distinct personal relationships with both the crops and land. For example, it has been noted that "the making of milpa is the central, most sacred act, one which binds together the family, the community, the universe...[it] forms the core institution of Indian society in Mesoamerica and its religious and social importance often appear to exceed its nutritional and economic importance."[1] ----- I just love cutting and pasting. Don't you? Any who ;O)
I had a rather dismal time with this experiment also. The problem seemed to be that the corn shaded-out the beans. I didn't try to complicate it with squash (which is what melons are as well). In a hot climate, it would make sense (so I may have the wrong premise) but in a cool climate (say, like Massachusetts), I would think that the squash would keep the ground from warming up (corn loves warm soil). If I were to try it again (like this summer), I think that I would plant the corn in a southerly to south-west facing bed, shaped like a crescent moon. Then a line of pole beans in front of the corn, squash planted next, in the middle of the bed and bush beans planted to the left and right of the squash.
My other approach would be to leave more space between the corn, so that the sunlight didn't get chocked-out.
Let us know how it works out.
--

- Billy
"For the first time in the history of the world, every human being
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On Sun, 26 Apr 2009 11:30:06 -0700, Billy wrote:

I'm going to give it a try. My plan is to plant on 4ft centers. I'm also going to plant sections of heirloom varieties and sections of modern varieties, I have 1800 sq ft of garden space so I should have the room for this. I picked up a couple packets of Indian Corn and some Mayflower pole beans at Plimoth Plantation. I'll try to use the Indian corn as popcorn, I'm not sure it's usable for anything else. I've also picked up a large packet of Sugar and Butter from Agway and I plan to pick up a packet of Silver Queen which are the two modern varieties that I normally grow. I'll plant a few pea varieties in place of the beans on some of the hills, peas and beans should be interchangeable as nitrogen fixing crops. I'll also plant a couple of varieties of squash, I'm only doing that for the ground cover effect it's supposed to provide, I hate squash so I'll give it all away assuming that I get any. I'm not sure what to do for melons, I need something that will mature in a short growing season. I've never had any success with melons in the past, has anyone in my neck of the woods (Lowell MA/Nashua NH area) been able to grow a melon?
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Corn flour

Peas don't like the heat that the corn will need. You probably should stick with beans.

You don't like zucchini or butternut squash? Grow 'em and we'll get you tried and true recipes.

Maybe MINNESOTA MIDGET  60-100 days to harvest.

--

- Billy
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I am trying the Three Sisters now. Can't vouch for it yet, but I have heard it's about as close to a perfect growing system as you can get. Just be sure to plant the beans and squash long after the corn. Wait until the corn is 4-6 inches tall so it has a fair chance before the faster-growing bens and squash take over. -S.
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On Sun, 26 Apr 2009 17:41:09 -0600, Suzanne D. wrote:

That's what I'm planning on doing, wait until the corn is 6 inches high and then plant the other crops. I'll also plant marigolds in between the corn hills. Marigolds attract beneficial insects.
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On 26 Apr 2009 23:54:50 GMT, General Schvantzkoph

Might I suggest African Marigolds. They are very tall marigolds with carnation sized flowers and seem to be doing a very good job of pest deterrent in our gardens. Foliage is much more pungent than "regular" marigolds.
http://rareseeds.com/seeds/Marigolds-African
http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/2262 /
Charlie
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On Sun, 26 Apr 2009 19:17:09 -0500, Charlie wrote:

If I see them anywhere I'll try them, it's probably too late to start them from seed.
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On 26 Apr 2009 23:54:50 GMT, General Schvantzkoph

You mentioned not liking squash in an earlier post. I'm not in NE, but my most successful Three Sisters garden I grew Baby Bear Pumpkins - they mature pretty early. Very cute. I probably got the seed from Johnny's Selected Seeds in ME. They can most likely advise you on what will grow in your area.
http://www.johnnyseeds.com /
Kate

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On Sun, 26 Apr 2009 20:02:57 -0500, kate wrote:

Thanks, I'll look for them.
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