European settlers arrived in America in the early 1600s, American Indians had been growing the “three sisters” for over three hundred years, by this point.
The vegetables sustained the Native Americans existence along with meat and nuts
In an Indian folklore, the plants were a gift from the gods, always to be grown together, eaten together, and celebrated together.
Each of the sisters contributes something to the planting. Together, the sisters provide a balanced diet from a single planting.
- As the eldest sister, the corn offers the beans needed support and a climbing tower.
- The beans, the caring sister, pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil for the benefit of all three.
- As the beans grow through the squash vines and up the cornstalks toward the sunlight, they hold the sisters close together.
- The large leaves of the squash protects the three plants by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeps it cooler, moist and prevents weeds.
- The prickly squash leaves also deter pests.
Together, the three sisters create sustainable soil fertility as they provide you a healthy diet.
We plant the corn in early May (after last frost). Soak the seeds for 4 hours before planting in a slight hill or elevated row and keep the soil moist
When the corn plants are 6" tall we plant squash, pumpkin or zucchini between every other corn.
Then plant pole beans in the skipped spaces. We plant this in long rows, many forms of this technique suggest circles or a square pattern. We find the circle/square is harder to maintain and weed. The row method allows access on both sides to pick vegetables and weed.
Note that this style of planting should be repeated each year as the nitrogen converted by the beans, will not be left till the plants are nearly mature and they have broken down. You may need to use organic fertilizer the first year.
One little trick Brad loves to do is as the watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkin vines are dying, he plants his seeds for snow peas in the ground. The vines add a bit of warmth and protection to the young plants. While they are about 6 in long and have not spread- he cuts the summer plants away and lifts then off the new peas.
Enjoy and love you garden!