Once upon a time, several generations ago, this land was populated by the native tribes of North America and many of them planted a garden that came to be known as the “Three Sisters Garden” which provided the majority of the necessary nutrients to survive. What can we learn from these native ancestors of ours?
Well, quite a bit actually as their wisdom lives on in today’s world if we care to pay attention. They had mastered living off the land here long before the first European settlers had arrived and in fact imparted much of their knowledge on to those settlers to help them survive in the harsh winters. But I digress. What exactly is a “Three Sisters Garden” anyway?
Well, in it’s most basic incarnation you lay out a round bed about 4 to 8 feet in diameter and hill it slightly in the middle. Initially you’re going to want to add a high nitrogen source to the soil to get your corn started but after that the beans should take care of replenishing nitrogen for you. Plant about 6 to 8 corn plants roughly 6 to 8 inches apart in a circle. Give the corn 2 or 3 weeks to get started before planting anything else in that bed. Then plant some variety of pole beans about 6 inches outside of your corn plants. Somewhere between fourteen and eighteen plants should suffice. Give the beans some time to get started and then plant about 6 or 7 squash plants (again, pick a variety you like) roughly 12 to 15 inches outside where you planted your beans. Now, as your plants grow try to train your beans to grow up the stalks of the corn plants and you squash to cover the ground in the area between your beans and corn.
The beauty of this arrangement is these plants are highly symbiotic with one another. The beans will produce the nitrogen that the corn plants need and the corn stalks are providing a natural trellis for the beans to grow up on while the squash provides shading for the ground which helps to preserve moisture.
Now, that being said, some people have trouble getting corn to grow for them around here and have instead substituted mammoth sunflower plants which are said to require less nutrients from the soil and be more pest resistant. There are several variations on this type of garden you can play around with but all in all it’s a very efficient use of space and resources and provides a good nutritional profile to boot! I don’t know if Em’ and I will get around to planting one of these this year but if and when we do I will get some pictures and/or video up to share on it. If you have done or are doing this please share your experiences with us!
Jack Spirko Video - On YouTube demonstrating using sunflowers instead of corn for this type of garden. Also in this video you see an assassin bug which is a beneficial insect for your garden. As the name implies, an assassin bug lies in wait to ambush insects which come to feed on your plants and eats them instead. Pretty cool huh?