Anyone familiar with companion planting has
likely heard the tale of the Three Sisters
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
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
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
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.
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