Three Sisters Companion Planting
The Three Sisters Planting method is a technique that groups up three different types of plants to form a healthier planting system. They work together to support each other in a variety of different ways. It originates from Native Americans and has been a time honored technique to growing successful gardens. The basic technique technique works because of the underlying facts of how plants prefer to grow together and with a variety of other types of plants.
The three sisters consist of three different types of plants that when combined form a better performing unit. To build a three sisters garden you will need some sort of tall sturdy plant, a ground covering plant and finally a nutrient gathering plant.
Tall Sturdy Plant
To plant a true three sisters garden the plant of choice here is corn. Corn has many great attributes that make it a great choice for the sturdy plant of your garden. It will typically be planted in May before your other two partners and be allowed to grow to a height of around 6 inches. Once the corn is at this height you can then plant the pole bean of your choice around the base of each corn plant. You will typically plant 2-3 beans seeds for each corn plant. Some texts will tell you that this is when you plant your ground cover plant as well but I have found they can be planted at the same time as the corn will little ill effects.
The corn provides a support network for the beans to grow up but you don’t necessarily need corn for this. Other options you can plant could include sunflowers or any other tall stalked plant that could provide a sturdy base for the beans.
Ground Covering Plants
The ground covering plant is some type of vining plant that spreads and covers the ground. This provides weed suppression and helps retain moisture in the soil by shading the ground. The options here are very versatile as there are many types of plants that you can grow. I personally have grown pumpkins, winter squash, watermelons and cucumbers in this particular niche.
To plant this in a three sisters garden you pretty much grow them just like you would by themselves. Make a mound, plant the seeds and water regularly. One of things that you have to do is make sure they vine into areas where you want them. This is easy to do with a little vine training and positioning.
Nutrient Gathering Plant
Beans if you did not know are a type of plant called a legume which is capable of taking atmospheric nitrogen and incorporating into the soil. This feature makes beans a very useful addition to the three sisters as they can help supply nutrients to the corn and vining ground cover. So by planting a pole bean which will grab onto the corn stalk and grow up it. At the same time the bean is growing it fixes nitrogen into the soil which can help the growth of all the plants.
How you arrange a three sisters garden is something that can be determined by the gardener to fit your specific situation. I personally will plant two ground cover crops surrounded by the corn and beans in my 4x3 garden plots. With my limited space I find that this technique works really for my situation.
Some gardeners if they have the room will do something that is a little more liner such as the diagram below.
It really depends on what you want and the space you have available to you. If you have any questions about this check out other articles on the Green Living Library and the sources in this article.
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