You may have heard of the traditional gardening method called the three sister method: planting corn, beans and squash together to form a symbiotic relationship between the three.
The corn forms a trellis for the beans while the beans draw nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form the other plants can feed on, using special bacteria it hosts symbiotically (and it was also recently discovered that these bacteria also feed on sugars that are expelled by the corn’s roots. SCIENCE!). The squash acts as a natural ground cover with its large umbrella like leaves, killing weeds and acting as natural air conditioning for the roots of the other plants. Nature, isn’t she cool? This method is also more efficient (about 20% actually) than others.
There have been other variations in the past with a fourth sister. This fourth plant can be sunflowers, the rocky mountain bee plant, etc. Adding a fourth sister may prove useful, but if you want the basic trio, you’ll do just fine.
We’re going to try this method for the first time this Summer.
Here’s how you do it:
You can begin any time after the nightly temp is 50 degrees and plant all the way until June. The corn is planted first, and needs to be planted in a grid instead of one long row (this helps with its pollination). Make sure you leave space between each corn plant for your squash since planting it all too tightly together won’t allow room to flourish. When the corn is around 4 inches high, it’s time to plant the other sisters. Renee’s garden has a wonderful diagram of how you should plant your three sisters.
This year, I’m very excited about the corn we’re using. It’s from Native Seeds Search, and I had to get on a fucking waiting list to order it. That’s right. A waiting list. For corn. But it’s so, so worth it. It’s called Glass Gem corn, and it’s like eating a tiny stained glass window. LOOK AT IT. JUST LOOK AT IT. I’m going to dry it and use it for popcorn or flour. I haven’t decided yet. Though I also may just wind up staring at jars of it through the sun for a few hours, too.
IT’S GONNA BE LIKE EATING A RAINBOW.