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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Three Sisters and Half Sisters Update

So I experimented with the Three Sisters Method of planting Corn, Squash, and Peas together. I also did an experiment with planting Eggplant and Peas in a similar three-sister style of interplanting. I'll call this the Half-Sisters planting for discussion purposes.

Well here is how the Three Sisters look today
You can see how the squash/zucchini and corn are interplanted. If you look at the base of the corn on the left, you can see a pea that is about ready to be trained to climb the corn.
My observations:
- Looks like I actually got the timing right. I thought that I maybe planted the squash to early, but perhaps not.
- The 'problem' with the squash is that I planted a bush type and not the vining type. However, it is still doing a good job covering the ground, as it has completely taken away the rows that I intended to use for walking between the plants! I can still tiptoe through there though.
- I may have actually planted the peas too late. We'll see. The corn looks as though it may be ready in about a month or so. I don't think the peas will be. So let's see how long the corn will be a trellis for the peas.
Here are the Half-Sisters
The eggplant is still fairly small. Though, you can see two at the bottom right of the pic. The peas have already outgrown their trellis and I am not sure where to train them now. I guess they can just go back down. I imagine this will be a mess to clean up, but they are just bamboo sticks, so I may just toss them in the compost with everything else.
As far as sisters, I am not sure that they are helping each other at all. I guess I could say that they are helping each other by creating a gap between like plants. So given that there is an eggplant in between each pea plant (and vice-versa) does have its benefits. When a cutworm took out one eggplant, it didn't easily 'find' the others. One of my pea plantings have been chewed on (by ?), but whatever it is hasn't found the others. I would assume that if all of these plantings were lined up, the culprit(s) would just go down the line and attack all the plantings.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Pea Saga Continues

Ok, so at the last update the peas had began to develop these pretty white blossoms. So I go out today and the white blossoms are gone! I thought I would see more not less! Not only that, there are more shriveled up, dried out, turned-white looking pea pod beginnings (see pics from previous post). So what is going on! Will I ever get peas?! According to my journal, I should not expect peas for another 5 weeks, but those first 'pods' sure got me excited. And then........I start seeing these:
Yes, I think this is the beginning of a real pea pod. Right now its long and thin, but I expect that in 5 weeks, we'll have harvested quite a few peas. Here's hoping things keep progressing!

In other news, the corn looks great. I have two varieties planted:
Burpee's Ruby Queen Hybrid and
Burpee's Bi-Licious
I expect silks any day now.
I found aphids all over one of my squash blossoms. Other than that, I see no damage from them. Yes the little green dots below were moving!
But I think I have some helpers around that will help me out with the intruders.
The eggplant is taking its time, but I don't expect the harvest to start until mid-Oct, so its on time.
And, finally, here's the latest look at the entire garden.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Oh Pea, Oh My

Well last week, I thought something was wrong with my peas. First my pea pods would emerge as small green pods.
Then, they would turn almost white, shrivel up, and dry out.
But this morning, just as I started to get nervous and I went out and saw this.
All the shriveled up, turned-white, dying pea pods, were now turning into blossoms.

So perhaps, this is just how the peas develop. I tried to google cowpea development or stages of cowpea development, but I found nothing. I'll keep watching it and documenting the stages of my cowpea's development.

In other news, some of the corn looks days from silking up. I can't wait to see the silks....got my pepper ready (to keep the moths from laying eggs). My zucchini is coming in two weeks early and my squash is about a week early. So hopefully, these are signs of a plentiful harvest.

Here's how the garden looks today:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Harvest is Coming!

I went to check on things in the garden and to my surprise, I found the beginning of my late summer harvest.

I'm a little curious about why the stems of my squash / zuchinni plants are turning blank? But other than that, the plants look perfectly healthy and is bearing great looking fruit.
Corn -- all the corn has tassels now

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Garden Maintenance

This morning I did some maintenance on the garden.

First, the peas were taking over. I - foolishly - thought they would naturally climb up the stakes I'd put out for them. However, they didn't. I am supposed to train them to do this. So this morning, I did just that. I put some twine around the stages to make a makeshift cage for the peas.

Here is one pea plant overtaking a nearby eggplant. The eggplant is circled. Everything else is the pea.

Here is the eggplant after I caged the pea.

Here is one pea plant before caging.
And after caging.

I am sure that the eggplants are thankful for my taming the peas.
I wonder how they would have done had I not caged them. I guess they would have just crawled around the ground. However, the leaves would get wet with each watering and would lead to diseased plants eventually.

The next task of the morning was to spray Neem Oil on the corn. The thrips are back (as mentioned previously), they haven't done much damage given that I haven't sprayed in over two weeks.

I then sidedressed everything except the peas with bone meal. This is because everything is starting to bloom and will give them a boost in P. Peas don't need much fertilizer so I left them alone. When I pulled back the mulch to sidedress. I noticed that a few of the alfalfa pellets were still decomposing, so that's good...continuous supply of light nitrogen. I know most of it has already decomposed.

One pea plant had radishes that sprouted. They have gotten fairly large too. This was a companion planting experiment, so we'll see if these peas do better than others.

So here is how everything is doing (shown with 2 liter sprayer):

Corn and Peas
Our first corn forming
What a beautiful sight (notice the bee):
 One thing I noticed while out doing my maintenance....I have a lot of twin plantings. You know, you put two seeds in the hole, hoping one sprouts and they both do....You don't notice that its two seperate plants when they are seedlings....so now you have two thriving plants.

Here are all my twins (eggplant - notice the aluminum foil around the stem...lost one to a cutworm, so I went back and foiled the rest of them, squash, corn):

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back from Vacation

Well we went on vacation, we were fairly nervous about this because we had just planeted our late summer garden. We installed a drip irrigation system the week before we left...I'll do a post on how we did that later. But this allowed us to set the timer to water while we were away.

When we left, the garden looked like this:

And, when we returned, it looked like this:

Today (a week later) it looks like this:

Things look great so far! The squash are starting to bloom.

We tried to time things to keep insect problems minimized and you'll see in the pictures, that has worked for the most part. We timed it based on what we were planting (squash, corn, eggplant, peas) and the life cycle of their main pests (squash bugs, vine borers, beetles, worms, etc..). We figure that by now, most of these pests are already in the adult stage: getting ready to die off, or go dormant soon. We know there may be another generation of squash bugs, but they haven't shown so far. We'll see how this works; we expect better results than spring when all the eggs hatch and the bugs come out hungry! Its just an experiment.

Our corn has been attacked by Thrips.

We sprayed with Neem Oil. This helped a lot. The damage stopped getting worse and the corn responded with great growth. Then it rained (first time all summer) and the Thrips have returned. So this weekend, I expect to spray with Neem Oil and fertilize with Bone Meal.

Last weekend we side dressed the corn with compost.

So how is the Three Sisters planting working? (Corn - center front, climbed by peas/beans - small plant right front, flanked by squash to cover the ground - larger plants on outer edges of photo)
Well, I think it is working beautifully even with the two things that I will change next time.

What would I change?
1 - I would change the timing in which I planted. I planted the corn first along with the squash and then planted the peas two weeks later. As you can see the squash has outgrown everything. So I should have waited and planted the squash a few week after the corn. But for the most part, the corn is holding its own and the peas are coming in nicely and should be able to climb the corn.

In the following picture, you can see the squash growing over the peas. The corn is doing well and I will soon train the peas to climb the corn. Unfortunately the other corn stalks didn't make it----I probably pulled them with the weeds :(.

2 - Row Spacing. I got my spacing off. As you can see, the squash is also taking up the space in between the rows; where I am supposed to be able to walk for harvesting and maintenance. You can also see that the squash is smoothering some of the peas and corn....but had I planted the squash later, they would be growing under the peas and corn as intended....not over them. Hopefully the peas and corn will still reach their height and push the squash under them soon.

See below, there is no room to walk! I am supposed to be able to walk on either side of the outer two corn stalks. Oh well, live and learn.

So how is this working beautifully?
I love this interplanting because it seems to be confusing the insects or at least helping avoid infestations. There was only one section of corn suffering from thrips before the rain. After the rain, a different section has some minor Thrip damage. I believe that had my corn been planted in a traditional row, all of the corn would be affected. It would be so easy for the thrips to move down the row and infest the whole crop. This is true for the other insects as well.

This shows the thrip damage to the new section of corn (after the rain). As you can see, this damage is very minimal and the corn is alot bigger now to withstand their attack. Just waiting on the silks now...got my pepper and vegetable oil ready!

The eggplants and peas are doing well. My eggplants stunted slightly after transplant, but now they have rebounded and have started to take off.