Three Sisters Plus One

Public Domain,
Public Domain,

When I think of those whose beliefs, life, and love are closest to nature I think of the Native American. Native Americans live through out the Americas from Alaska to the tip of South America. Although their cultures differed each culture was intertwined with the ecosystem that surround them. These cultures had a great interruption, Europeans who later called themselves Americans. I have a great interest in the Native American connection with the Earth and wish to learn more. Today Native Americans are working very hard to instill their culture back into their lives and youth, I yearn to be part of that. My family carries Mestizo DNA not that your would know it by looking at me, my cousins, a different story. Perhaps this is the source of my love and belief in nature…I would like to think so.

Today I wish to discuss the Three Sisters garden. This companion planting technique was used by many Native American Tribes, the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois among them. According to legend maize or corn, beans and squash are inseparable sisters given as gifts from the Great Spirit. Planting the sisters creates a circle of independence founded on giving and receiving. The sisters provide fertile soil and a healthy diet. This method of planting was used by the Native Americans successfully for hundreds of years and most likely kept the Europeans alive.

Painting by Karen Rieser
Painting by Karen Rieser

The first step in creating a Three Sisters garden is to know when to begin planting. Nature was looked too… wait for the Canada Geese to return or the Dogwood leaves to be the size of squirrel’s ear.  Now create a mound. If the soil is poor bury several rotted fish or eel as fertilizer. The oldest sister, maize is the first to be planted. After the maize has grown several inches plant the third sister, beans.  Squash, the second sister is planted at the edge of the mound. The fourth sister, not often mentioned as she provides no food directly is Cleome Serrulata, a bee flower.

Each of the sisters has a job. The maize provides a pole to support the beans. The beans add nitrogen to the soil keeping it fertile. The squash with its shallow roots acts like mulch and shades the soil preventing water loss. The Cleome Serrulata or bee flower attracts pollinators guaranteeing fruit.

For the people the plants provide a very healthy diet. Maize provides carbohydrates thus energy. The squash is full of vitamins and their seeds contain oil. Beans are protein packed. What more can you ask for.

Nature provides for our needs if we listen and perhaps dig into the wisdom of  past generations. I do not have a Three Sisters garden but maybe I will someday . For now I have painted a Three Sisters garden on a piece of drift wood. The painting will be put in the yard as a piece of yard art.





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