How to Plant a Three Sisters Garden

The wisdom of a Three Sisters Garden

The corn serves as a pole for your beans to climb. Corn requires nitrogen to grow; Beans absorb nitrogen from the air and convert it to a form that other plants like corn can use.  The beans climb up the corn stalk an provide extra rigidity preventing the corn stalk from falling down during wind or rain.  The squash balances it out providing shade; keeping weeds down and moisture in the soil.

Every year I plant a Three Sisters Garden. In this video, you’re just in time.  I’m going to get you into the action, honoring this awesome Native American tradition by teaching you how to plant this garden that promises to “sustain life.”  The "three sisters" are corn, beans, and squash which were meant to be planted together, according to tradition, because they act as companion plants for each other. 

The winter has just ended and I am starting my 3 Sisters garden from scratch. First I will turn the raised bed by loosening up the compacted soil. I use a shovel to turn the soil, digging as deeply as I can to bring the soil on the bottom up to the top. While I am doing this, you may see that there are leaves in the soil – which is OK, because they will eventually compost down. Additionally, I add some rabbit manure into the soil because it’s a great fertilizer (that doesn’t need to be composted first.)

After I have prepped the bed, I just complete it by making sure that all of my soil is level and once it is, the bed is ready to be planted!  In the video I plant my Three sister’s garden using seedlings.  Below I explain how to start the garden from seed in a 4x8 raised bed.

Three Sisters in 3 easy steps:

  1. After the last day of frost, build a mound about 12 inches high and between 18 inches and 3 feet in diameter. Plant four corn seeds six inches apart in the center of the mound. You’ll have 8 mounds in a 4’x8’ raised bed. Water throughly.
  2. Once the corn grows to about four inches tall, it’s time to plant the bean seeds. Plant four bean seeds, three inches away from the corn plants.
  3. The same time as you plant the bean seeds, plant four squash seeds, about a foot away from the beans, eventually thinning them down to two. Water throughly.

Every year, this is a tradition for my family and I hope you’ll bring the three sisters into your family, as well!

Garden Girls’ Favorite 3 Sister Seed Varieties: