Friday, 18 September 2015

One Lonely Sister - Disheartened by the Sweetcorn

I have written about the Three Sisters system of growing before.
For those who missed it, here's a quick resume.
Grow sweetcorn, squashes and climbing beans together. They all have different needs for light and nutrients and all help each other. It is a system used by Native American Indians.

Of course, it is very trendy, especially when you select Cherokee Trail of Tears beans to grow, for this makes it sound even more authentic. While Cherokees are, reportedly, a good bean to grow, so are many other French beans. I prefer Cobra, which sounds pretty authentic in a desert context, though it of course inhabits the other India!

But this system of companion growing is designed to use the same land year after year in a completely different climate and soil type to what we experience in Britain. I have tried it and it does not work for me. The beans never do well, or if you plant them too much earlier than the corn then the corn never makes it. So I have been sticking to Two Sisters growing. Small groups of corn with pumpkins and squashes rambling in between. It has worked well, except that in cooler years, or if the sweetcorn gets off to a slow start, the cobs are not ripe before the wheat field next door is harvested.

The result is disheartening to say the least. I'm not sure if it's the rats or the field mice (I suspect a bit of both, and maybe a bit of rabbit thrown in), but they devastate the crop before it is ripe enough to harvest. They even have the nerve to chew through the husk material to see if the corn is ripe. If not, they leave it till later, irrevocably damaged.
Looking on the bright side, at least we've enough sweetcorn in the freezer from last year that we won't run out. Even if we do, we've plenty more vegetables to choose from. That's the nature of growing your own. Every year some things go mad while others disappoint. Just look at my courgette failure this year for a good example.

On the other bright side, Rambo is enjoying the corn leaves and the stem and roots will go back into the soil and give it body.

And on the third bright side, the squashes seem to be coming good and nothing seems to eat them.

But next year the already depleted Two Sisters will be going down to One Lonely Sister. I am going to experiment with a new variety of sweetcorn, allegedly a supersweet, non-hybrid variety which ripens early. But to be on the safe side, I shall again be growing some in the polytunnel and the rest in my mixed vegetable beds outside, away from the field and in the more protected environs of the main veg plot.

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