Three sisters is a type of companion planting in the vegetable garden that the north Americans have traditionally used for over 6,000 years, both symbolically and beneficially.
Passed down through generations, the stories are that corn, beans and squash are sacred gifts from the Great Spirit. The planting season is marked by ceremonies to honour the three sister spirits.
Although we didn’t follow the traditional three sister planting to the letter in our own garden (I planted the seeds in blocks and not up and around each other), I can say without a doubt that we harvested bountiful crops of all three vegetables during 2010 when we experimented with this planting
Traditionally the beans are planted at the base of the corn stalks which are then used to support the growing bean stems.
The leaves from the squash shade the roots of the corn and beans and help to retain moisture. The also suppress the weeds and their prickly stems discourage pests. Also the roots from the beans are nitrogen fixers which benefits both the corn and the squash.
This method is quite different from the commonly grown rows of vegetables used in crop rotation, as here the vegetable families have been juggled up, but it works. Their growth habits and nutritional requirements are quite different but complementary to each other.
I’d certainly recommend giving this method a try to look forward to using it again in my own garden.