Survival Food Series: Three Sisters Technique
The three sisters: corn, beans and squash were some of the first domesticated crops used by the Native Americans to sustain¬†their long term survival.¬† The Native Americans taught the Pilgrims their agricultural techniques to help the Settlers survive. In fact, if it was not for these seeds given to the Pilgrims, and the¬†three sisters approach,¬†the Pilgrims¬†sustainability would have been greatly diminished.
According to the Native American legend, the three sisters, also called “Our Sustainers” were¬†sent down from the “Great Spirit.” The sisters are¬†inseparable and all work together in order for each sister to thrive.¬†¬† This trio: corn, beans and squash,¬†have a symbiotic relationship that helps sustain the crops and gives them maximum nourishment.
The corn stalk offers¬†itself as a structure for the beans to climb on.¬† While the beans supply the corn with needed nitrogen as well as well as improving the¬†overall fertility of the soil.¬†¬†When the beans climb the corn stalk, it also provides the stalk with¬†added stability from strong winds.¬† The squash vines grow at the base of the bean and corn plants and¬† provide a type of living mulch to help conserve water and provide weed control.¬† The roots from the squash vines are shallow and will not invade the roots of the other plants.¬† Once the plants have been harvested they can be incorporated into the soil as organic compost, thus fertilizing the soil even more.¬† In this approach, the efficiency of space is¬†not only¬†beneficial, but¬†it is also very easy to achieve results.¬†¬†Moreover, this is a great gardening approach to teach children¬†about companion planting.
How To Create The Three Sisters Gardening Technique
Just like in human life, each sister must be by itself, before another sister comes along.¬† In this technique, timing¬†and spacing¬†are the keys to success.
1. In late Spring or early Summer, hoe a mound of soil into piles about 1 foot high and about 20 feet across.¬† The centers of the mound should be about four feet apart and should have flattened tops.¬† *Note: a 10×10 square foot of space is the minimum area needed to have a good corn harvest of corn.¬† If you have a smaller garden area, plant fewer mounds, but be aware that you may not get good full corn ears as a result.¬† See Diagram:
<——————————— 10 FT. ———————————>
2. In the center of the mounds, plant 5-6 corn kernels in a circle about 6 inches apart.
3.¬† After a week or two, when the corn has grown to be 5 inches or so, plant seven or eight pole beans in a circle six inches away from the corn kernels.
4.¬† A week later, at the edge of the mound (about 1 foot away from the beans, plant seven or eight squash or pumpkin seeds.
5.¬† When the plants begin to grow, weed out the weaker plantlings, and keep a few of the sturdiest of the corn plants from the mound as well as the bean and squash plants.
6.¬† As the corn and beans grow, make sure that the beans are supported by the cornstalks.¬† They should wrap themselves around the corn.¬† The squash will creep between the mounds of the corn and bean plants.
Once¬†the vegetables are harvested, they can be canned, dried out or eaten fresh.¬† The yields from these vegetables will be able to further sustain a family longer.¬† Perhaps the Native Americans were right by calling these three¬†plants “Our Sustainers.”
This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition
Author: Tess Pennington
Author's Web Site:
Made Available By: Ready Nutrition
Date: February 9th, 2010
Related Categories: Gardening, Natural Alternatives, Survival Food