The Three Sisters

Hello everyone! My name is Shannon and I am a 2017 intern here at Albright’s community garden. Although I have only been here for a short amount of time, each day spent in the garden is a new experience for me. It is amazing to see just how much the garden can change within a couple of days. Before you know it, seeds that we have planted will soon begin to sprout and it is such a satisfying experience knowing that something we planted is growing and thriving. Although, we will have to work diligently and tirelessly before we can reap the benefits. Fellow gardeners alike will agree that most of their time is spent fighting weeds and keeping pesky insects away from their crops, and still more are looking for ways to create a garden with limited space. Along the way, I have found multiple methods of gardening that require minimal effort to upkeep and does not take up a lot of land, but the one that stuck out the most to me was the Three Sisters.


Image result for three sisters

We all know that Native Americans had a reputation for being excellent hunter-gatherers, but did you know about their popular farming technique called the Three Sisters that is still used today? The Three Sisters, otherwise known as corn, beans, and squash, were the staple food to the Natives. It was the Iroquois tribe that first coined the term, “Three Sisters.” When grown together in a small section, they form a symbiotic relationship with one another. The corn stalks allow the beans to climb and act as a trellis while the beans provide nitrogen for the soil and help ground the corn during severe storms or high winds. Squash plants assist in preventing weeds from growing due to their large leaves covering the ground. Not only do the plants grow well together, but a diet consisting of these is perfectly balanced which was important for the Native Americans since they had limited resources to work with that would provide the necessary nutrients they would need to survive. While corn is rich in carbohydrates, beans contain high protein and amino acids not found in corn. Finally, squash is chock full of vitamins and other nutrients that both corn and beans do not supply. Usually, the three types of seeds are planted in the same mound in the ground and each should be planted in different stages. Always plant the corn first and once after they have established a small stalk, the beans should be planted next. The corn should also be planted closer together depending how much you are planting because if they are far apart, they may not be able to pollinate. Squash should come last so their leaves do not cover the beans. Making a mound will aid in water drainage so the plants do not receive an overabundance of water.

I think it is interesting to see a farming practice that managed to survive hundreds of years still incorporated in gardens and farms. Even right now the Albright garden has planted the Three Sisters. With the grouping of these three plants, we are able to work on other tasks at hand since they do not require much maintenance besides basic needs that every plant has. The best part is not having to weed (gardeners you know the struggle!) Trust me when I say that you only need a small area to do the Three Sisters. We have only a small plot dedicated to this technique and we are still getting three different crops out of it! Overall, I believe this is a fantastic example of a symbiotic relationship with plants and shows that anyone can plant something healthy on a small area. If you put your heart and soul into planting, you will see the results!

Happy planting!

Additional information on the Three Sisters:

Recipe of the Week: Bean Salad with Lemon and Herbs


*makes 6 servings*

· 2 cups fresh cooked shell beans (such as cannellini or cranberry) or 1 14-oz. can cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed

· 6 oz. green beans, trimmed, cut into 1” pieces

· ¼ cup fresh parsley leaves with tender stems

· ¼ cup olive oil

· 3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

· 2 tablespoons capers, chopped

· 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

· 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

· ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ¼ crushed red pepper flakes

· Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Toss shell beans, green beans, parsley, oil, chives, capers, lemon zest, lemon juice, and Aleppo pepper in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.



Saying of the Week:

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

-John Muir

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