The “three sisters” emerge at school garden

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This is the awesome time of year when we exclaim from our heart:

IT WORKED!!!  ITS ALIVE!!!  WE DID IT!!!

This photo shows maize (corn) on the left, squash in the middle, and beans on the right.  The battery in my phone died when I noticed the crops emerging on June 4 but this picture was actually taken on June 11.  Many people are enthralled with the three sisters method of planting corn, beans, and squash together but we find many questions about how to actually implement this method.  The three sisters method is the prime example of “Guilding” in Permaculture Design where the crops complement each other in different ways.  In the three sisters, corn is the structure for beans to climb, beans provide nitrogen the corn needs, and the squash provides shade for moisture retention and weed suppression.  Traditionally the three sisters method was done more so on mounds with representatives of the sisters being on almost every mound.  People make the mistake of thinking the corn:beans:squash ratio is 1:1:1 but there is actually more corn and beans per mound than squash.  Our ratio is more like 6:6:1.  But we don’t plant in mounds and we don’t mix the crops up within the rows.  It is much easier for us to manage by keeping them somewhat separated and in their own rows.  But it is clear that these crops complement each other and that the diversity they bring to the garden is important.

We met the challenge of the coming season!  We prepared the soil and planted.  Now we are getting our irrigation system fine-tuned but the strongest crops are thriving and as the crops grow, so does our hope for another year of connecting with agriculture and the Mother Earth…

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About Miguel

Miguel Santistevan is a researcher, educator, and advocate for traditional agriculture crops and systems.
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