Corn, beans and squash were the first domesticated crop on this continent that originally was kept by our Native American sisters and brothers. According to legend, corn needed the benefits from other companions to grow. This began the three sisters planting traditions in several tribes throughout the world. The three sisters, corn, beans and squash would be planted together in late spring early summer. This type of planting assisted with the growth and keeps the soil fertile. It also reduced weeds, held moisture in the soil and kept predators away. Although gardening has been modernized, This Native American gardening techniques continues to be used today.
Indigenous Gardening Techniques That Can Still Work
There is different folk lore regarding "three sisters planting". According to one legend the three sisters were in the field. Each time a Mohawk boy entered the field one would disappear. This saddened the remaining sister. When the boy seen their sadness he put the sisters back, where they became strong. The Iroquois legend starts with Sky women falling from the sky. Once on earth Sky women became pregnant and gave birth to a girl. This daughter also gave birth, but soon after died. Sky Women buried her daughter. From the grave came the three sisters, corn beans and squash.
Many Native Americans farmed in the spring, summer and hunted in the winter. They would begin planting according to environmental signs. Some included weather, soil temperature, returning geese, and leaf size. For fertilizer they used fish and burnt tree ashes, Leaf mold, swamp plants and manure was also used. Instead of using animals to farm, Native American women used tools consisted of digging sticks, hoe and rake. Digging Stick was made from tree limb with a sharp end. Indians made Hoes from tree limb with either a shell or bone attached with sinew. Deer antlers were used to make rakes.
To be successful in three sister's planting, you need correct timing, planning and seed spacing. Begin gardens in June, when night temperature is 50 degrees. Your beans should be either runner beans or pole beans. The squash should have vines not a bush. When choosing an area remembers; the best area is 10 by 10 with 6-8 hours of direct sun a day. Smaller areas will not produce tall corn.
First you should till compost or other fertilizer in your soil. Next make mounds 18" in diameter spaced 5 feet apart. Plant the 4 seeds of corn in your dirt mound. If you make a second or third row, off center the mounds from the row in front of it. Remember corn pollinates better with more rows. When corn has grown 4 inches tall, plant the beans and squash. Be sure your 3 sister garden is weed free.
Plant 4 bean seeds in the dirt mound spacing them 3" from the corn. Next build soil to make a 18" mound inside the original mound. Plant 3 squash seeds in the center of the mound to form a triangle. Space them 4" apart. Remove all but two of the hardiest plants, when the squash sprouts. Continue to weed the garden until the squash has bloomed.
Corn Beans and squash was the first domestic garden seeds, often planted together to provide better crops. To have a successful 3 sister garden first mix mulch or fertilizer in the soil, plant the corn. This should be done when the night temperature is above 50 degrees in an area with 6-8 hours of sun. Once the corn is 4" tall plant the beans and squash. Continue with the weeding as needed, until the squash is in full bloom. These Native American Garden techniques will help you have better crops.