If you’re looking for something new to add to your garden this year, sometimes the best gardening ideas are the oldest. The Three Sisters Method of vegetable gardening stems from the Native American tradition of companion planting. The premise behind the Three Sisters method is to create a vegetable garden that requires the least amount of tools. In this incredibly sophisticated garden plan, each plant benefits the other to create extended soil fertility and a plentiful harvest. This specific garden recipe calls for corn, beans and squash.
After mounding the earth to a 1’x2’ mound with the top flatted to a plateau, plant corn in the center. Next plant beans in a circle approximately 6” out from the corn. Beans germinate quite quickly, just pick out your favorite variety. Finally, plant the squash around the perimeter of the mound. When planting the squash be sure to either plant 3 seeds per hole, or if starting with plants keep multiple plants in each cell together.
You’ll want to plant this garden in full sun, it should receive at least six hours of sunlight per day. Also, when planting corn it’s best to have at least 4 rows as corn is pollinated from the wind. The multiple rows help aid in the pollination process.
The corn serves as food for the beans as well as a stake from them to grow up. The beans provide food and a nitrogen source for the corn and because they climb around the corn stalks, they actually provide more stability for the corn to stand through all New England weather - which we all know can be unpredictable. The squash plants drop leaves creating an organic mulch, this prevents the moisture in the soil from evaporating. The squash will protect the garden from even the driest summers. Squash also acts as a deterrent to predators, protecting the beans and corn.
These three vegetables are not only complementary growing partners, but also nutritionally compatible. The corn supplies carbohydrates, while the beans contribute protein, and the squash provides necessary vitamins. In the spirit of maximizing the minimal, this method shakes up the garden as well as providing a great history lesson for kids on some of the lesser known Native American practices!