Three Sisters Garden

A Three Sisters Garden is a Native American idea based on a story of three vegetables that were staples of the ancient Native American diet. The three vegetables are corn, beans, and squash (including pumpkins).

Corn stalks growing in the Texas heat. You can see the ears at the bottom of the photo.

The Native American legend says that there were three sisters. The first one was tall with yellow hair and a green wrap named Corn.

The second could only crawl and stayed close to Corn. Her name was Bean.

Pole green beans are beginning to grow in our garden.

The third sister wore yellow and sprawled out all over the place. Her name was Squash.  The three girls loved each other dearly and were always together.

Now you can plant these three staples in your garden in much the same way that the Native Americans have for hundreds of years.

Yellow summer squash blossoms grow in our garden.

First, choose a place in your yard that gets six to eight hours of direct sunlight every day. Till the soil and add manure or fertilizer and mix it in well. Native Americans would put raw fish heads in the holes when they planted their seeds for fertilizer.

In the center of your space, outline a circle 18 inches in diameter in the dirt. Then make a mound in the circle that is six inches high. Plant four corn seeds, any variety, six inches apart on the top of the 18 inch mound. Cover the top of the mound with a thin layer of mulch to help keep moisture in.

Once the four corn seedlings start to come up, get your bean seeds ready. When the corn plants are four inches high,  and not until they are four inches high, plant four pole beans or four runner beans on the sides of the mound, spaced about the same distance apart. If you plant the beans too soon, they will take over the corn and ruin it.

On the same day the beans are planted, plant the squash as well, around the 18 inch mound. Make four small mounds around the 18 inch mound, even with the bean seeds and plant one squash seed in each small mound. This can be any plant in the squash family, including pumpkins.

Sunflowers growing in a raised bed in our backyard.

Seeds For A Three Sisters Garden

Native Americans also planted sunflowers in their gardens, along with the Three Sisters.

If you choose to plant sunflowers, put them on the north side of the garden because they will grow tall. When they do, they will not block the sun from the other plants if they are planted on the north side of the grouping of the other plants.

Of course, you can repeat the Three Sisters Garden in several spots in your yard if four plants of each won't be enough to feed your family. You may have three or four of the plant groupings in your backyard garden.

The corn stalks grow tall and the beans will grow up the stalks. The corn will support the bean vines so you don't need to worry about poles for the beans to climb. The squash vines spread out on the ground and help keep moisture in the ground. They also help to keep weeds from growing on the ground by blocking sunlight on the ground, preventing weeds. The beans add nitrogen to the ground, which the corn needs to grow properly.

More information:


Pole Bean


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