Science Sarah Says: Look for the “Three Sisters” in Our Garden

The grounds at Frog Pond are lush and green and our gardens are thriving. Our vegetable gardens feature the “Three Sisters” plantings.

Native Americans planted their three staple crops, corn, squash and beans, together in a configuration designed to optimize their growth.  Like sisters, the three plants complement each other, each contributing a special gift that benefits them all.

  1. The oldest sister, Corn, grows strong and tall—reaching toward the sun.  As the squash and beans grow they lean on Corn for support.
  2. The second sister, Squash, spreads her broad leaves over the ground, shading the soil, keeping moisture in and weeds out.
  3. The third sister, Bean, climbs up through Squash, clinging to tall Corn to reach the sunshine.  As she grows, her roots reach down and nourish the soil by producing nitrogen, an important nutrient for all three plants.

Planted in a circle, the corn plants can freely cross-pollinate to produce lots of corn kernels.

Modern science helps us understand why this inter-cropping technique works so well but Native American farmers learned the benefits of this complex relationship by direct observation of the plants as they grew, asking questions and watching the plants for answers.  We are trying to teach the children to learn from nature with the same kind of direct experiences, careful attentiveness and curiosity.

Because the sisters are young, the are a little difficult to see in the photo, but stay tuned for updated photos as they the continue to grow.

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