If you have a small garden plot and don’t like digging it up every year, Three Sisters gardening may be for you!
This is a Native American gardening technique that is at least 1,000 years old and can be varied to climate conditions.
So, What Are The 3 Sisters?
Corn is a heavy feeder and susceptible to high winds. The pole beans fix nitrogen into the soil and provide additional support for the corn. The squash also provides nutrients to the soil, but is grown for a living mulch and to keep the deer and raccoon out of the corn.
In wet or cold (a mound will allow the earth to warm faster and hence you can plant earlier) climates, you want to mound your plants. In dry climates you want to dig a depression to retain as much moisture as possible. If you are getting the normal 40″ of rain per year that most vegetables desire, just dig a circle.
Check out the layout depicting the placement of corn, beans, and squash.
Corn – planting and growing
Corn needs other corn in close proximity around it for best pollination – no pollination and you get no kernels of corn. This is why you never plant corn in a single row. By planting corn in a tightly confined circle you will get optimum pollination of the plants.
Pole Beans – Gotta Have That Structure!
If you have ever planted pole beans, you know that they will just take over a climbing structure. The pole beans will bind the corn together providing maximum wind resistance. The flowers on the beans will also attract pollinator insects.
Squash For Moisture and Pollinators
The squash will help retain moisture in the ground and stunt weed growth by shading the area. Its flowers will also attract pollinating insects.
Ready to give it a shot? Awesome.
- Corn first
- Beans about a week later (to give the corn a chance to get up and growing, and
- Squash a week after that
Let’s say you want one or two meals of corn on the cob for X weeks. Plant X mounds successively and you will have Three Sisters dining for as long as your growing season holds. Depending upon how YOU like to put your veggies up, you can plan for some work all summer or just work at canning the whole crop in a few days.
Also, for the most part, squash will winter quite well in a cool, dry area.
Here is a garden pot sunk in for watering. Six corn are planted around that pot. The beans are on the outside of the corn a week later, and 4 squash plants are planted a week later from the beans.
Don’t sweat this one, just have fun, and enjoy some sweet, sweet, all-American calorie crops.