Nutritionally speaking, the Three Sisters are winter squash, corn and pole beans.

by John Bagnasco

This group comprised the main crops of various Indigenous peoples in North America.

In this planting technique the vegetables are planted close together. Plant seeds for the Three Sisters after danger of frost has passed. You can determine the best time for your area by entering your zip code here. One major concern for the Southwest is the hot, dry heat of the early summer. Corn does not tolerate high heat and low humidity during the period of tasseling. Therefore, plant before April 15 to ensure that the pollen released during the corn’s tasseling period will occur before July when it will be more likely to be sterile or infertile.

I recommend planting the seeds directly in the ground as they will fare better than transplants. This planting leads to stronger root systems that are more adequately able to take up water and nutrients, resulting in more vigorous and healthy plants.

The three crops benefit by being grown together. The cornstalk serves as a trellis for the beans to climb, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil, and their twining vines stabilize the corn in high winds, and the wide leaves of the squash plant shade the ground, keeping the soil moist and helping to prevent weeds.

European records from the sixteenth century describe highly productive agriculture based on cultivation of the Three Sisters throughout what are now the Eastern United States and Canada, from Florida to Ontario. Geographer Carl O. Sauer described the Three Sisters as “a symbiotic plant complex of North and Central America without an equal elsewhere”. Agronomist Jane Mt. Pleasant writes that the Three Sisters mound system “enhances the soil physical and biochemical environment, minimizes soil erosion, improves soil tilth, manages plant population and spacing, provides for plant nutrients in appropriate quantities, and at the time needed, and controls weeds”.

Three Sisters Veggie Planting: A Native American Planting Method that Listens to Mother Nature