4 Steps To Grow A Three Sisters Garden Like The Native Americans

Three Sisters Garden at Pricketts Fort

Native Americans practiced companion planting known as a Three Sisters Garden. By inter-planting the trio of corn, beans and squash , the plants were able to thrive together, much like three inseparable sisters.

Together, the three sisters provide both sustainable soil fertility as well as a healthy diet.

Garden at Pricketts Fort

Garden at Pricketts Fort


By the time European settlers arrived in America in the early 1600s, the Iroquois had been growing the “three sisters” for over three centuries. The vegetable trio sustained the Native Americans both physically and spiritually.

In legend, the plants were a gift from the gods, always to be grown together, eaten together, and celebrated together.

Benefits of a Three Sisters Garden
Each of the sisters contributes something to the planting. Together, the sisters provide a balanced diet from a single planting.
• As older sisters often do, the corn offers the beans needed support.
• The beans, the giving sister, pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil for the benefit of all three.
• As the beans grow through the tangle of squash vines and wind their way up the cornstalks into the sunlight, they hold the sisters close together.
• The large leaves of the sprawling squash protect the threesome by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeping it cool and moist and preventing weeds.
• The prickly squash leaves also keep away raccoons, which don’t like to step on them.


sketch of Three Sisters Garden

Sketch of Three Sisters Garden


Here are some tips to plant your own Three Sisters Garden:
• Prepare the soil by adding fish scraps or wood ash to increase fertility. (Other livestock manures or compost can also be added.)
• Make a mound of soil about a foot high and four feet wide.
• When the danger of frost has passed, plant the corn in the mound. Sow six kernels of corn an inch deep and about ten inches apart in a circle of about 2 feet in diameter.
• When the corn is about 5 inches tall, plant four bean seeds, evenly spaced, around each stalk. About a week later, plant six squash seeds, evenly spaced, around the perimeter of the mound.


Corn growing at Pricketts Fort

Corn growing at Pricketts Fort


This practice continues at Pricketts Fort. Stop by the fort and talk to their interrupters to find out other “tricks” the early settlers learned from the Native Americans.


What will you be planting in your garden this season? Share your gardening tips in the comments section below. 


Tags: , , , , ,