The Three Sisters

A perfect example of Agro-ecology and permaculture

 Did you know that corn, beans, and squash are called the “Three Sisters”? A number of Native American tribes interplanted this trio because they thrive together, much like three inseparable sisters. Instead of single rows of a single vegetable, this method of interplanting introduces biodiversity, which does many things—from attracting pollinators to making the land richer instead of stripping it of nutrients. 

Each of the sisters contributes something different and together, they provide a balanced diet from a single planting. 

  • The corn offers the beans necessary support.
  • The climbing beans pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil for the benefit of all three. 

Image credit: University of Illinois Extension

  • As the beans grow through the tangle of squash vines and wind their way up the cornstalks into the sunlight, they hold the sisters close together.
  • The large leaves of the sprawling squash protect the threesome by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeping it cool and moist and preventing weeds.
  • The prickly squash leaves also keep away rabbits and other pests, which don’t like to step on them.

Together, they provide both sustainable soil fertility as well as a healthy diet. 

How to Plant the Three Sisters

There are variations to the Three Sisters method, but the idea is to plant the sisters in clusters on low wide mounds rather than in a single traditional row.

Before planting, choose a sunny location (at least 6 hours of full sun every day).

Plant the beans and squash when the corn is between 6” and a foot high.

Information taken from.

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