Anyone familiar with companion planting has likely heard the tale of the Three Sisters garden. Corn, beans and squash comprise this trio featured in the Three Sister’s legend, all of which were sisters that were different, yet love and thrive next to one another. Passed down by Native Americans for many generations, this is a familiar tale. With minor variations, three sisters lived in the field. In some stories, they lived in the garden.
History of Three Sisters Garden
The theme of the tale is to promote compatibility and growing together. Many indigenous tribes grew these vegetables together as a staple of their food crop. It is said they tilled the soil in these spots three times.
Some versions indicate that the sisters did not get along before being planted. The story outlines how their differences created conflict for other family members. The theme basically demonstrates how these differences effectively work together for the greater good. In this case, companion planting effectiveness comprises the heart of the Three Sisters planting story.
The latter part of the story indicates how a crow sneakily came and removed the squash and the bean sisters during the night. This caused so much sadness and turmoil for the older sister that the bird was forced to bring them back to the planting site. Another version of Three Sisters planting story came from the Haudenosaunee tribe. This one describes a young Indian boy instead of the crow. In this version, the two younger sisters, beans and squash, voluntarily followed him home as opposed to being taken.
The same theme in a Canadian version plays out with a Mohawk boy and the younger sisters following him home as well. Eventually, all three sisters end up in his family’s lodge as food for the winter.
In all versions of the story everything ends happily. It is an effective way to remember the vegetables that easily grow happily together. We can continue to plant these three vegetables next to one another in the garden, substituting pumpkins for squash if need be. Allow plenty of room in the ground for the large root systems.
Pass this story along to younger gardeners in your family. It is simple to grasp and easy to remember. This tale will likely stay with them throughout their gardening life.