The Q&A Archives: Native American Trio

Question: I know that Native Americans commonly planted corn, beans, and squash together, but was wondering if peas and zucchini can be planted with corn in the same way. Also, do I need to use an inoculant with peas, or do they just produce less without it?

Answer: You can certainly substitute vegetables of your choice and still use the same general principles of planting, but you might want to rethink the growing of peas with your corn and zucchini. Peas prefer to grow in the cooler weather of spring and fall, not in the heat of summer. The idea behind growing corn, beans and squash together is an interesting one. It's intensive gardening at its best and it may help keep garden pests away. Corn stalks can provide a natural trellis for the bean plants and the squash, with their hairy leaves and stickery stems, tend to keep raccoons away from the ripening corn.

Peas and other legumes are important nitrogen-fixing plants. They fix nitrogen in the soil by gathering it from the atmosphere and collecting it in nodes on their roots. They do this with the help of rhizobia bacteria, normally found in the soil. If there is an insufficient amount of rhizobia bacteria, the roots won't fix as much nitrogen as they could. Inoculant helps improve the nitrogen-fixing ability of legumes and is often dusted on the seeds prior to sowing.

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