The Three Sisters Garden

Researched and Written by Dominique H.,  2016 PYN at TLC youth participant. 
Photos by Christina Moresi, M.Ed., TLC Program Manager 

                     Corn                    Beans               Squash

Have you ever wondered why these three vegetables are placed together?

A Three Sisters garden is an ancient Native American tradition, which includes planting corn, beans, and squash together. The Three Sisters grow well together, because they support each other to grow. Planting the Three Sisters is a tradition common among the Native American farming societies, and is a sustainable system that promotes soil health and a larger harvest on a small plot of land.

On the Teen Leadership Corps (TLC) at Awbury Arboretum’s Downtown Farm, we have this same system.

Our corn plants provide a natural pole for the beans vines to climb up on. The beans have a good source of nitrogen that helps maintain the corn plant, by making them secure to the harsh winds. The squash creates a ground cover that helps to retain moisture in the soil, as well as intimidate predators to avoid approaching the corn and beans plants. (On our farm, deer, groundhogs, and squirrels are our main crop predators.)

The corn, beans, and squash also complement each other nutritionally. The corn provides carbohydrates and the dried beans provides protein that balance the amino acids that is found in the corn.The squash provides both vitamins from the fruit and healthful oils from the seeds.

Based on the Native American Technology and Art article, Planting a Three Sister Garden, the best season begin planting a Three Sisters garden is in late May or early June, because the average temperature is in the 50 degree range.

Our Three Sisters garden is beginning to peak, with beans proliferating, and our first blue corn harvested August 24th, 2016.

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Sources:

NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art, Planting a Three Sisters Garden…

Renee’s Garden, Celebrate the Three Sisters: Corn, Beans and Squash by Alice Formiga

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Editor’s Note: The Three Sisters Garden on TLC’s Downtown Farm is a collaborative project, initiated by Master Gardener Trainee and TLC Chef, Gail Hinson, and supported by Kristen Jas Vietty, Lunaria Gardens Nursery Grower and Awbury Food Forest steward, Oliver Herrine, TLC Farm Manager, and Jovan Lee, TLC Youth Apprentice. For more information about our Three Sisters Garden, email us at TLC@awbury.org. 

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