Sister Act

I got up extra early yesterday to beat the heat while working on my ‘Three Sisters’ bed for this year. Out came what was left of the purple podded peas and in went a bag of compost from one of our bins. I also left the roots of the peas where they were so they could add nitrogen to the soil.

A ‘three sisters’ bed revolves around growing corn, beans and squash together in one bed. The corn supports the climbing beans and the squash provides ground cover to lower evaporation and provide a cool root run for the other plants. This planting scheme, developed by Native Americans, is eminently suited to Canberra’s hot dry summer growing conditions.

The start of the 'three sisters' bed with corn planted along with a spagetti squash.
The start of the ‘three sisters’ bed with corn planted along with a spagetti squash.

I had already tucked in a few plants of ‘Golden Bantam’ corn into the bed about a week ago. This time I added my remaining corn seedlings and a spagetti squash from our friend M. I think I have to describe my corn planting as ‘random’ blocks. They will, however, be close enough for wind pollination of the corn to occur.

The beans are growing away quite strongly in the polyhouse. I will plant them out in about a week’s time. I’ll be using my Scarlet Emperor climbing beans for this bed as the red-coloured flowers look really lovely in the garden. I always hope to seduce passing neighbours into growing veggies by showing them how good they can look.

Bean seedlings will be ready to plant out in a few days.
Bean seedlings will be ready to plant out in a few days.

I also wanted to reuse the pea stalks I pulled out, so I chopped them up roughly and put them down onto the bed.

Roughly chopped pea stems with some extra soil goes onto the bed as feed/mulch.
Roughly chopped pea stems with some extra soil goes onto the bed as feed/mulch.

I then threw some soil over them and topped the whole bed with sugarcane mulch.

The 'three sisters' bed ready for several days of hot weather.
The ‘three sisters’ bed ready for several days of forecast hot weather.

I’ll let you know how they are growing a bit further along in the season. (And a big wave to my actual three sisters as well.)

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A job done

It feels good to have worked in the garden today.

I started to clean up the ‘three sisters’ bed last week

Fisrt stage of the clean-up, cutting back the corn and beans
First stage of the clean-up, cutting back the corn and beans

and found some unexpected bounty among the spent plants.

A butternut pumpkin and some small cobs of blue popcorn
A butternut pumpkin and some small cobs of blue popcorn

I was going to leave what was left of the corn plants on the bed. This would have protected the scarlet runner bean plants from the frost. But then I decided it would be better for the soil if I planted another crop there instead.

So today I planted out some red mustard and komatsuna, a Japanese brassica. The bean plants are still there and we hope they will re-shoot in spring. Scarlet runner beans are also called seven year beans, a reference to their ability to grow for several seasons. So far we have only had one season from them, but this year …

A seedling red mustard
A seedling red mustard

The red colouring in this seedling will become more obvious in the mature plant. I welcome its colour in my garden. Apart from tasting very good the other reason I was keen to plant the red mustard is that as it grows it will release compounds that naturally suppress soil pests and pathogens. All the better for my garden bed ‘s next crop.

I also managed to plant out my last batch of pea seedlings. These plants are Massey Bush peas. They have been slow to germinate and I’ve had quite a few that haven’t shot at all. I think that the seed may have been a bit old. Before planting the seedlings I dug some blood and bone into the soil and found about 10 white curl grubs (larvae of Scarab beetles) which were greedily eaten by the chooks. Talk about natural pest control.

Having worked for several hours it felt good to go and relax in a hot bath.