The Three Sisters
Three Sisters plantings -the traditional native way of growing corn, beans and squash–offers the benefit of not tilling the soil at all. Grasslands sequester carbon, a good thing in these times of climate change. Creating Three Sisters mounds on top of the soil involves building the mound and then planting the mound, first with corn at the top, then beans along the side which will climb up the corn and finally squash of various sorts around the base, to hold the soil and keep both soil and roots cool.
The corn grows tall and sturdy, letting the beans climb the corn, and in return the beans fix nitrogen into the soil that the nutrient-hungry corn needs. The ground-crawling squash conserves water with it’s wide sheltering leaves, circling the mounds and shading out weeds that would compete with the beans and corn.
While the civilizations covering the Americas mastered this technique long before the coming of Europeans, we are only now discovering why these “sisters” grow so well together. Not only do they support each others’ growth above the surface, science is discovering that the microbiome of the rhizosphere – the world of microscopic organisms that live in and around the roots – is complimentary! Each nurtures it’s own set of beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms in a symbiotic support system that helps the Three Sisters grow and flourish.