The Native American Three Sisters gardening technique is an example of companion planting. The "three sisters" are corn, pole beans, and either pumpkins or squash. This trio is one of the easiest and most satisfying to grow.
Each of the sisters contributes something to the planting. Together, the sisters provide a balanced diet from a single planting. How it works:
- The corn offers the beans needed support.
- The beans pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil for the benefit of all three.
- As the beans grow through the tangle of squash vines and wind their way up the cornstalks into the sunlight, they hold the three crops close together.
- The large leaves of the sprawling squash protect the threesome by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeping it cool and moist and preventing weeds.
- The prickly squash leaves also keep away vermin and pests.
Tips for growing the three sisters:
- To employ the technique in a spring garden, prepare the soil by adding fish scraps or wood ash to increase fertility, if desired.
- Make a mound of soil about a foot high and four feet wide.
- When the danger of frost has passed, plant the corn in the mound. Sow six kernels of corn an inch deep and about ten inches apart in a circle of about two feet in diameter.
- When the corn is about five inches tall, plant four bean seeds, evenly spaced, around each stalk. About a week later, plant six squash seeds, evenly spaced, around the perimeter of the mound.
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