“My amazingly knowledgeable neighbor gave me the down low on this planting technique developed by Native Americans. These three plants have a symbiotic relationship which allows them to produce more food using less water and fertilizer. The corn stalks create a natural trellis for the beans to climb, while the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, which nourishes the corn. The leaves of the squash vines ramble around, preventing the spread of weeds and providing shade for the shallow roots of the corn. You will significantly increase your yield by planting this way.”
This is the same diagram which shows how I planted last years crop.
We discovered some problems with this set up. Firstly, all the beans facing east baked to death. They got way too much sun. The beans on the north and west sides flourished. We also discovered that we LOVE butternut squash and wanted more. We’re trying to cram a lot of food into a pretty small space. This year we’re trying it like this:
This layout doesn’t allow for the squash to really shade the roots of the corn, but I think it will be more manageable this way. And this way we will get more of everything. The beans will actually all grow, we’re able to cram in more squash and we’ve eliminated walking space that was ultimately unnecessary and planted more corn. YUM!
I did a post about this stretch of our yard recently, but here’s another before and after update.
Here is the current state. You can see the fruit trees and blueberries have filled out, and we’ve added cucumber, spaghetti squash and zucchini around the trees.
Did you know that with some varieties of blueberries, you can plant them closer together (2′ ish apart) and create more of a blueberry hedge, as opposed to big bushes? This was the method we chose, so we could fit more varieties of blueberries in a smaller area. Also, the same totally gifted and knowledgeable neighbor that taught be about the three sisters guild, taught me that the first year you plant blueberries, you should strip the berry buds off the stem. That way the plant can put all it’s energy into establishing a strong root system and the following year will be more successful. Here’s a picture of the guild. You can see the tiny little beans starting to come up! In no time this space will be covered with squash vines and the corn will be over five feet tall. Sigh. I love summer. What are you growing this year?