The Three Sisters Planting Model

Now that spring time has come to a close and summer solstice has passed, the time to seed fall crops such as corn, beans and squash, to name a few, has arrived! And it turns out, these three crops are great when planted together!

The Three Sisters planting model was first used by the Iroquois Native Americans, who recognized a relationship between these crops when planted together. The corn provides a natural pole for the bean vines to grow up while the beans fix nitrogen for the corn. The shallow rooted nature of squash and pumpkin vines provide living mulch for the soil bed and help with moisture retention as well as weed control.

Here’s how to plant Three Sisters:

Create mounds in a row that are around 20” in diameter, at least 5’ apart with flattened tops. Feel free to make a small crater in your mound to help direct water to the roots of your plants.

First, plant seed corn of your favorite variety, in the middle of every mound, it is not a bad idea to plant more than you want, you can thin the smaller ones later on.

About a week later, or when the corn is around 5”, plant your favorite pole or runner bean variety.

Once the beans have sprouted, you will be ready to plant squash or pumpkin seeds. Choose varieties with running vines instead of a bush type. Delicata and Butternut are some favorites because they are delicious, easy to cook and have edible skins!

The plants should be planted in a successive manner, because seeding them all at once may result in a mess of vines! Enjoy your Three Sisters harvest!

Other crops that can be seeded into early July include beets, peppers, endive, okra, and members of the brassica family including, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage.

At the market this week, be sure to keep a look out for your favorite greens, sugar snaps and strawberries!

The Pocahontas County Farmers Market is located on First Avenue in Marlinton, next to the minipark. It’s open 8:30am to noon every Saturday through mid-October.

This story was written by Leah Turgeon, the AmeriCorps VISTA with Appalachian Mountain Advocates.


Story By

Megan Moriarty

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