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Three Sisters Planting Technique

This planting technique is ingenious! Developed by Native Americans, this technique allows maize, squash, and beans to be planted with strategic proximity to support one another’s growth.

Seeds for each crop are buried in flat-top mounds of soil. Corn is planted in the center while mounds for squash and beans encircle it. The beauty is in seeing nature take its course, as each crop plays a vital role. The stalk of the corn acts as a crutch to support the climbing beans. Beans convert sunlight into nitrogen emitting it into the soil. The squash detour the sunlight from promoting weed growth, its leaves providing shade that help the soil retain moisture, and the sharp vines repelling pests.

This harmony is achieved without man-made materials, such as a block of wood to support the beans. If the soil quality was not ideal, fish would be planted within the mounds to serve as fertilizer. I can’t imagine this smelled any better than the manure we use today, but it was just as effective.

Interested in growing a garden of your own using this technique? Experts suggest starting in late-spring planting the corn first. Once it has gained some height to support the beans, the bean seeds can be added around the corn stalk. Not too long after, it will be time to plant the squash seed in a ring outside of the beans. The crop will emerge just in time for its leaves to shield the soil from summer sunlight.

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