Three Sisters Garden

Lessons are often abundant in the garden, but none so delicious as the ones learned in a Three Sisters garden. Created by First Nations communities in North American, the Three Sisters garden guild is one comprised of corn, squash and pole beans, planted together. The corn stalks provide a support for the beans, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil and the squash plants provide a living mulch, covering bare soil to prevent weeds and retain moisture. This example of perfected companion planting can then be harvested in as little 75 days and should be grown in rich, well drained soil.

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Seeing a Three Sisters garden in person is wonderful. This summer, my family and I went hiking in Southern Ontario at Crawford Lake - a conservation area that has a recreation of a traditional Iroquoian village that stood on the very site over 600 years ago. The First Nations people who inhabited the village cultivated a Three Sisters garden, the significance of which is explained here:

The people who originally lived in this village over 600 years ago were farmers who grew three main crops; corn (Wyandot: önenha’), beans (Wyandot: oyare’sa), and squash (Wyandot: yasheta’); each considered to be gifts from the Creator, these plants are also commonly known as the Three Sisters. Grown together they make up an important agricultural system, and eaten together they form a nutritionally complete diet.

At Crawford Lake, Ojibiikaan has established 13 mounds with our traditional crops, the Three Sisters. The demonstration garden is planted according to Traditional Ecological Knowledge and ceremony, and will be used for reclaiming Indigenous agricultural practices and saving heritage crop varieties.  The garden has brought the three sisters back to its traditional land!”

This got me curious about growing a Three Sisters garden in 2019. To simplify the process, West Coast Seeds offers a Three Sisters garden seed pack comprised of Golden Bantam corn, Scarlet Runner beans and Red Kuri squash. Getting corn to germinate can be a little tricky and the West Coast Seeds website provides lots of practical information on ideal growing conditions and temperatures.

Will you attempt a Three Sisters garden this year? Let us know and do send pics! Click here learn more about the Ojibiikaan garden at Crawford Lake.