Three sisters agriculture
Three sisters is a companion planting method that has been utilized in North and South America, originally in Mesoamerica, for over 5000 years. The Three Sisters are Corn, Beans, and Squash, and usually are planted as a variety of heirloom seeds of each kind in certain patterns, and make up the base for multiple indigenous agroecological techniques throughout North and South America, such as the Milpa in Mesoamerica. The three plants, as well as the others involved in different companion plantings in different regions, were and are of great spiritual significance to the indigenous peoples who utilized them for thousands of years, given the relative abundance that can come as a result of this method and the fundamental importance of food in most societies.
- Plant the corn first,
- A couple of weeks later plant beans.
- Plant squash around the same time as the beans.
You'll need paths to walk on, that allow you to reach and pick from all the plants without excess difficulty, and tend to the plants when needed.
Corn: Provides a structure for growing of beans and a high yield of grain. Different varieties improve biodiversity, and can include hand-pollinated varieties.
Beans: Growing up the stalk of the corn like a trellis, they also fix nitrogen in the soil and provide a good source of protein. They benefit from the corn's shade.
Squash: Producing groundcover, it makes use of the land area between the plants, and acts as a living mulch, i.e. they prevent weeds and provide opportunities for many varieties, including gourds which have high utility. It may benefits from the shade of the corn.
While the three sisters were the most common members of these garden types, several Native American tribes have planted things like amaranth, bee plant, and sun flowers. These add another function to this guild, attracting pollinator and predator insects. For sunflowers, plant them on the northernmost side of the garden, to avoid shading. Planting takes place at the same time as corn, and you can run beans up them too.
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