How to Grow a Three Sisters Garden
The Iroquois Native Americans have a legend about three inseperable sisters- corn, beans and squash. From this legend a method of sustainable agriculture developed. (see video below) Each sister helps the others to thrive- corn supplies living stakes upon which the beans twine, the beans help stabilise the corn and fix nitrogen into the soil, while evaporation and weed growth is limited by the trailing squash vines.
To find the ideal location for your Three Sisters Garden, observe the amount of sun each area receives in a day. Ideally your chosen spot should get about 6-8 hours of sunlight per day, throughout the growing season. The size of the plot should be at least 3mx3m, to allow for proper pollination of the corn, otherwise you will end up with improperly formed cobs.
Prepare your area with lots of organic matter, such as compost and manure. If you would like more information on composting, see our article here. Unless legumes have already been grown in the area, it won't have had a chance to build up a good supply of nitrogen for this first planting. Later plantings will benefit from the beans you will be planting now.
Create mounds, laid out as shown in Diagram A below, with flat tops- or even slightly concave to stop water runoff- of about 10cm in height and 45cm across.
Each type of plant needs to be planted at the correct interval so that they can weave their magic together. The corn and beans share mounds, while the beans get their own mound. Plant 4 corn seeds per corn/bean mound, positioned as shown in Diagram B. Once the corn has grown to about 10cm in height, it's time to plant the beans, 4 per bean/corn mound, once again as shown in Diagram B. At the same time you can also plant the squash seeds, 2 or 3 per squash mound.
Keep your garden happy with adequate water and feeding, if needed, with extra compost or compost teas etc for an abundant tasty crop. Then, happy munching! Excess produce can be preserved for later use out of season or when produce is scarce.
How To Plant Three Sisters Garden - Sustainable Agriculture With Companion Plants
|Three Sisters Garden Layout
B = Beans C = Corn S = Squash
|Legend of the Three Sisters