I’m Making a Modified Milpa

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Milpa seedlings in my greenhouse

What is a milpa, you ask. The Spanish word means cornfield, but it’s a lot more than that. It’s a mixed plot of vegetables and fruits used in Mexican cooking. It usually consists of the Three Sisters—corn, beans, and squash–plus chile peppers, herbs. and any other crops loved by the farmer, including cactus grown for their fruits called tunas, and often peas, eggplants, and tomatoes. I’m using mostly heirloom crops, and I’m growing everything from seeds, not bedding plants. My modifications include medical cannabis, grown legally, and a variety of melon.
Here are the crops, seeds mostly provided by Native Seeds SEARCH in Tucson (except the cannabis):
Rattlesnake Beans: Popular in the Southwest because they can survive on summer monsoon rain alone and cope with variable conditions. Produces a steady harvest of 7-8″ round pods that are green with purple streaks. Harvest early for very sweet tasty snap beans, or allow to mature for delicious dry beans.
Cannabis strains are ‘Sonic Boom’ and ‘Dream Kush’.
Quatro Milpas Chiles: Grown in the mountain village of Quatro Milpas, Sonora. Fleshy and smooth-skinned. Ripe fruits are dark brownish red.
Golden Bantam Improved Corn: Genuine, old-fashioned corn flavor. This is the most improved strain of this legendary sweet corn.  Large ears with 12 rows on tall plants.  Vigorous, early growth.
Herbs are cilantro and Italian Parsley.
Melon de Castilla is a deliciously sweet melon with pale yellow, smooth skin from the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico.
Black Beauty Zucchini is the squash of choice. Because of its storage and shipping qualities, this zucchini has become a favorite for farmer’s markets. Dark-green, long, straight, cylindrical fruits on fairly heavy bush.
Punta Banda Tomatoes round out my selections. Collected from the Punta Banda Peninsula in Baja California. Indeterminate plants produce hundreds of red meaty, thick skinned fruits despite heat, water stress and poor soil.
My modified milpa growing plot is a raised bed of approximately 144 square feet, shown at left covered with garden fabric. Beneath the fabric are drip hoses, my preferred irrigation method. After hardening off my seedlings, I will plant the milpa after May 1, the average date for the last frost in the South Valley of Albuquerque. I will report on my progress throughout the coming summer, so stay tuned. For more information on milpas, go here and here.