Three Sisters Gardening

Submitted by Michael Snyder, Gakwi:yo:h Farms

Custom graphic by Tami Watt

The three sisters, also known as corn, beans and squash also known traditionally as Johehgoh work together when grown in the same garden. This is a method traditionally used by many Native American tribes including the Hodinöhsö:ni’. This method is perfect if the garden space is small. Corn, the eldest of the three sisters grows tall and acts as a trellis for beans to grow upon. Also providing shade for the bean plants, which need some shade while growing. The beans will climb up the stalks of the corn and give it strength and support for when the wind blows. Beans also provide nitrogen into the soil, which the corn and squash need to grow. The squash grows along the ground and has wide leaves which provide shade to the soil and prevents weeds from growing around the other sisters. Squash also has thick, spiky vines which helps deter pests and animals. This method is called Companion planting.

The three sisters not only have benefits when grown together but when eaten together as food provides a well rounded, healthy diet. Corn is an excellent source of carbohydrates, protein, and polysaturated oils. Beans provide ample lysine and tryptophan to bring corn’s protein into balance. (For more protein, use dry beans.) Squash is a good source of carbohydrates and sugars. This is why these three vegetables are called the Three sisters, growing together in harmony, always wanting to be together.

How to plant a three sisters garden:

  1. Pick one variety of each of the three sisters to grow. Some varieties will not benefit as much from other varieties. (For example- Short or dwarf varieties of corn will not be able to support pole beans.)
  2. Prepare your raised bed or mound to be planted. If mounding, soil should be 3-4’’ high and long enough for the squash to grow. (About 4-6’ long)
  3. Plan out how each sister will be planted together. Below is an example of a layout for the three sisters. (However you can get creative and try out your own design)
  4. First, plant the squash in the spots you have designated, then plant the corn about a week later. Then when the corn is a 6’’ to a foot tall, then plant the beans.
  5. Once they have been planted in the ground, be sure that they are well watered. The sister squash likes a lot of water, and corn sisters like a lot of sun.