Three sisters planting is an ancient method of companion planting that was first used by Native Americans. This is a great example of companion planting and maximizes the use of space and symbiotic relationships between certain plants. Three sisters planting is also sometimes called trio planting.
Who Are The Three Sisters?
The traditional three sisters are maize (corn), beans and pumpkin (or squash). These three plants thrive when planted together because they provide mutual benefit for each other.
- The maize provides structural support for the beans
- The squash plants provide a living mulch, shading the soil, keeping it cooler during the day and warmer at night, improving soil moisture retention.
- Bean plants fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil, benefiting both the maize and the squash.
Not only do these plants thrive together, but research has shown that when eaten together, they provide a unique combination of nutrients. The combination of amino acids in beans and corn is significant enough to make a complete protein. This makes the trio of plants make a combination that provide a complete well rounded meal.
Tips For Three Sisters Planting
The great thing about this trio of plants is that they are all pretty easy to grow. The following few tips will help make your three sisters planting a success.
- Prepare the soil by adding some wood ash or compost.
- Corn pollination is improved when planted in a block rather than a few rows. A block of 3m x 3m (10ft x 10ft) is the minimum. This is due to corn being wind pollinated. Plant the corn 1.5m (5ft) apart.
- Plant the corn in mounds in spring when all chance of frost is gone
- After a two to three week delay, plant the beans at the foot of the corn
- About a week after the beans, plant the pumpkin seeds in mounds in between the corn mounds. If you find that your pumpkin is too shaded using this method, try planting them on the outskirts of the corn.
Using the three sisters planting method is a great way to maximize the use of your space, getting 3 crops out of the same space you would normally get only one.
As an alternative to maize (corn), you could also try planting sunflowers to provide support for the beans.