Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Three Sisters

When Europeans came to America the local peoples were growing corn, squash and beans together. These became known as the "three sisters".

They had plenty of space and resources, so why did they do this?

The tradition of planting maize (corn), squash and beans together in the same hills, is a sophisticated, sustainable approach that maintains long term soil fertility and provides a healthy diet to the farmer.

Corn provide a natural trellise for the beans to climb. Beans fix nitrogen that the corn and squash need. Squash shade the ground, keeping weeds to a minimum and conserving moisture. The prickly squash vines also discourage predators.

Corn, beans and squash also complement each other nutritionally. Corn provides carbohydrates, beans are rich in protein and squash yields vitamins and oils from the seeds.

You can try your own three sisters experiment in your garden. You will need a minimum of 10x10 feet to get decent corn pollination.

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