The Three Sisters and Companion Planting
This post will probably come as a surprise to my readers expecting another sarcastic take on the state of the world, but those who know me are aware that I have been pretending to be an organic farmer for several years now.
Once concept that is often overlooked in our world of industrialized agriculture, where thousands of acres contain the same crop, is companion planting.
Companion planting is actually quite simple, basically you allow plants to interact in a way that is beneficial.
Native Americans used a system that is commonly referred to as the 'Three Sisters'. This involves mounding up soil, planting a corn stalk in the middle, surrounding the mound with bean plants, and then planting squash in the spaces in between.
This system provides several benefits. The bean plants can climb the corn stalks, which allows them to grow above the ground and away from pests. The squash plants large leaves shade the ground keeping the soil moist for the water hungry corn.
I personally tried this method this year, with only limited success. The corn should be planted earlier than the beans to allow it time to grow large enough would be my advice.
It is important to remember that companion planting can have the opposite effect as well, certain plants have properties that will repel other plants, or stunt their growth.
The following resources provide some additional information on the subject.