Milpa is the simultaneous cultivation of corn, climbing beans and squash.
It is known for a long time that some plants grow better next to some others. This is called “companionship”.
The reason is that these “companions” do not have the same needs and do not compete with each other. For example, the carrot grows in depth while the tomato grows in height. Both plants occupy space better.
De plus, certains ravageurs sont gênés par la présence d’une odeur à proximité. Comme la mouche blanche par exemple qui n’aime pas l’odeur des œillets d’Inde. Il est dont judicieux d’en planter à proximité des cultures qui la craignent.
If in addition, we take into account the duration of culture, association of plants with short cycle, (salad, radish …) with others whose cycle is longer (cabbage, carrot), we can optimize at best the space of our garden.
One of the oldest examples of companionship comes from North and Central America. It’s called “Milpa”: it is the ancestral association of corn, climbing beans and squash. Corn serves as plant stake for the bean that climbs over it. The bean fix the nitrogen beneficial to the growth of corn. The squash covers the soil thus preserving moisture, which will improve maize yields. In addition, maize and beans are an extremely nutritious basic food pair.
Nicknamed “the 3 sisters”, this beneficial association of plants holds an important place in the Amerindian mythology.