La Milpa

The three sisters have so many siblings!

Have you heard of three sisters gardening? Corn+beans+squash, companion-planted so that the beans climb corn, squash mulches the bed, beans fix nitrogen for corn, squash blossoms attract pollinators, etc. When gardeners and farmers look into relationships between plants their harvest grows and the soil smiles.

I’ve heard people talk about as many as 12 sisters, and I’m planning a family reunion for our next round of planting! Right now we have the traditional three sisters together in a four different beds, with their relatives nearby. We’ve worked in a couple amaranth and sunflowers, but my next round of planting will have more complexity. You can see in the photo above that one of our three sisters beds is huge but nearby, two are tiny. The biggest is in a sunnier spot which the corn are loving, but the beans and squash are growing more slowly.

In Morelia many people have no idea what this is (it’s a big city; imagine asking in Indianapolis about three sisters gardening…) though Central America is where the practice was developed. And in Spanish it’s often called la milpa.

Google translates “milpa” as “cornfield,” which is what it means in Nauhatl, but of course it’s much more:

Definitely click on this to see it full size.


Lydie July 17, 2018

Wow, it’s changed so much! My host mother in Ecuador had a three sisters garden, and it seemed the norm there :) though I think they’d plant a couple types of beans, so perhaps it counts as four or five sisters..and they taught me to chew the corn stalks like sugar cane!

Anna Lisa Gross July 17, 2018

I’ll have to try that! But after we harvest the corn - hoping to eat both popcorn and sweet corn from these beds:-)

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