The Three Sister's Story
The Three Sister Garden is a historical gardening method dating back earlier than the 1600s. Many Native American communities began this gardening tradition and viewed the three sisters to be corn, beans, and squash. These three crops were viewed as the most important based on their mutually beneficial relationship growing next to one another. These three seeds will coexist together and help protect one another to produce a successful yield of the crop for that season, while still maintaining a healthy growing medium (soil) for future crop rotations.
The first sister in this garden, corn, is helpful because the height of the stalk allows the beans a place to grow and vine through, while still leaving enough space for the squash to thrive with them. This brings us to our second sister, beans. Typically the beans used in the Three Sisters Garden are pole beans instead of bush beans. Pole beans will vine up through the corn and around the squash, leaving plenty of room to allow the others to still thrive. As the beans are vining through the air, they will absorb the nitrogen from the air and put it back into the soil, benefitting all of their growth. The third and final sister, squash, plays a very important role in protecting the three sisters. The large leaves from the squash plant will provide shade and cool temperatures for the soil, helping limit the number of weeds competing for their nutrients in the soil. The prickly vines of the squash also aid in protection from outside predators such as raccoons, beetles, and rabbits.
Our Three Sisters
Through our many community connections, we were fortunate enough to cross paths with Patrick Bottiger. His specialty in corn and our first nations people sparked his interest in partnering with us to help aid in his studies on his Three Sisters Garden Project. This was definitely something that we were very eager to be able to be a part of and begin in the late month of June! While waiting on our seeds, we began to prep garden space near our Farm to School raised beds. Patrick soon after volunteered his time over the course of 5 days to plant the garden for us.
As we watched the garden grow into the Three Sisters, we were physically able to witness these three plants coexist in harmony together. We, unfortunately, were not able to harvest any squash or many beans this past season, due to pesky vine borers and other creatures sneaking into our garden for a small snack. We were however able to still harvest about 3 dozen ears of corn from the garden! We were able to use not only the corn from our gardens but also our cayenne peppers to make a delicious cheddar cornbread muffin recipe. You can try making your own muffins with our recipe HERE.
We are looking forward to continuing trying this fun and historically rich gardening practice along with any other creative methods we can get our green thumbs on.
How to Grow Your Own!
Depending on the type of climate you live in, it is best to directly plant these three sisters in the spring and summer seasons, as they are typically warmer climate seeds. It is very important to plant the seeds in the order of corn, beans, then squash. You want the corn to first grow a couple of inches tall, it should be approximately two to three weeks before you plant the beans. After about a week of noticing the beans beginning to climb the corn stalks and fruit, you are then able to plant the squash seeds. It is important to time the planting of these seeds, so the three sisters are not outcompeting one another and instead work in harmony in their ecosystem.
If you are curious about learning more about the Three Sisters Garden, you are able to learn more by clicking HERE!