Corn, Beans and Squash are known as the 'Three Sisters'
Seeds offer a living history lesson—one of sustainability and lore. According to legend, generations of Native American farmers knowingly interplanted these three seeds—corn, beans and squash—into a single mound. The Iroquois found that these 'three sisters' were better together than apart. The plants proved to be an inseparable combination that provided a complete and nutritious, high carbohydrate and protein diet— this planting method offered a sophisticated method of improving soil fertility and also a living connection to their Great Spirit.
The Iroquois Story of the 'Three Sisters'
The Native American legend of the Three Sisters* tells of three inseparable sisters who dearly loved one another. The youngest girl could only crawl and she dressed with flowing, green tendrils; the second sister wore bright yellow and would run off by herself on sunny days. The eldest sister was tall with long, golden hair. She stood above the others in a pale green shawl. Each sister was dependent upon the other and did not want to live apart. Late in summer, a young Iroquois boy wandered into the field where the three sisters played. Shortly after, the youngest sister disappeared. The other two sisters mourned for her. She did not return. Later, one evening the second sister, who dressed in yellow, abruptly left. Now, only the oldest sister remained. She stood straight and tall and called out to her missing sisters with a sweet yet melancholy voice. One day, during the harvest season, the boy heard the plaintive cry of the eldest sister who stood alone in the field. He felt sorry for her and carried her to his parent's lodge. She was surprised to see her two sisters. She laughed with joy to see them and they were al very happy to be reunited. They liked this warm house and wanted to show their appreciation. The youngest sister in green had matured and kept the dinner pot full while the middle sister in yellow sat on the shelf—drying herself so she could fill the dinner pot later on. The oldest sister was very happy to join in and provided the cornmeal for the meal. The three sisters never were separated again.
*The little sister with flowing, green tendrils is the Bean. The middle sister in bright yellow is the Squash. The eldest sister with the flowing. golden hair and the pale, green shawl is the Corn.
Regardless of your ancestry, planting your own 'Three Sister' garden is still a simple and efficient way to enjoy growing your own vegetables from seed. Come late spring, you can start your own family tradition by planting corn, beans and squash—just as the Native Americans did many years ago.
WHAT YOU NEED: 'The Native American Three Sisters Garden' seed pack from Renee's Garden.
Earth Tones Indian Corn: The maturing corn stalk will provide a natural trellis for the bean plants to climb around. The multi-colored, dried ears of corn make perfect decorations for autumn.
'Magic Beanstalk' Scarlet Runner Bean: The bean vines twirl around the corn stalks and add support to the corn stalk. The beans fix nitrogen onto their roots to increase fertility in the soil for next year. Bright red blossoms attract pollinators—especially hummingbirds. If you leave the bean pods on the vines, the black and purple beans will provide the protein for your favorite chili recipe.
Sugar Pie Pumpkin: These fast-growing pumpkin vines provide shade, keep the weeds down and retain moisture for all three plants. These spiny plants should discourage deer or other animals from snacking on the beans and corn. After the harvest, make pumpkin pies with the sweet meat or save the beautiful, orange pumpkins for Halloween decorations.
HOW TO PLANT: Grow a sustainable garden with corn, bean and squash/pumpkin seeds.
1. Look for a sunny and well-drained area (approx. 8' x 10').
2. Prepare the garden soil with a combination of compost and cow manure. Mix the soil and compost up to four inches deep. This formula seems to retain the moisture and makes weeding easier.
3. Plant the 'Sisters' seed combo in eight, individual, mound/hills. Each hill should be about 24-inches around and 6- to 8-inches high and flat on top.
4. For each hill: Plant one corn seed in each of four corners of a square. When four stalks of corn are six inches tall, thin to one or two healthy plants. Then, plant the beans around the corn stalks, so the bean's tendrils will twine around the stalks and use them as a trellis. (Allow four, healthy bean plants to remain after thinning.)
5. Next, plant squash/pumpkin seeds in between each mound where the corn stands. (Thin to three healthy squash vines on the perimeter.)
Summer brings tender beans to pick. In late summer, the silk matures on the ears of corn and the slow-to-arrive, squash blossoms turn into squash or pumpkins. If you allow your beans to dry in their pods, you will have colorful beans for fall recipes. When the last pumpkin is harvested, rake the remaining, dried foliage & stems back into the soil mounds and use this nutritious, organic mulch for next spring's plantings.
What goes around, comes around...