‘Three Sisters’ Native American garden


By Mary Burke-Bass - Contributing columnist



One of the community activities the Sampson County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association has been involved in — is what I would like to share with you today.

If you travel the street behind the Sampson County History Museum, you will see a circle garden with corn, beans and squash growing. This came to pass with the coming together of The Coharie Indian young people – Making A Difference Group, the Sampson County History Museum, and the Sampson County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association. With all the turmoil around our country, it was nice to have three different groups work together creating the “Three Sisters” Native American Garden.

With the leadership of Chris Faircloth, a Master Gardener volunteer and a leader with the Coharie Indian young people – Making A Differences Group, a “Three Sisters” garden came into being. The area cleared and the soil loosed at least six to eight inches; edging placed around the mound to help keep the soil in place, grass out and a quality compost material used to build the mound. Once the mound was formed, we planted corn in the center of the mound. Further down the mound we planted the beans, and the squash we planted last and near the bottom of the mound. Planting the garden in raised mounds improves drainage and soil warmth; it helps to conserve water. You can make a small crater at the top of the mound to keep the water from draining off the plants quickly.

The “three sisters” garden is a technique from our Native American ancestors. Traditionally corn, beans and squash were planted together. The Three Sisters is a combination of three plants working together: Sister Bean makes available in plant form — nitrogen from the air. Sister Corn provides the support for Sister Bean’s trailing vine. Sister Squash provides ground cover to hold moisture and maintain healthy soil as well as deterring animal invaders with its spiny stems. They nourish each other with nutrients. Not only are they good planting companions they are also good companions for our tables. Beans provide protein, corn provides carbohydrates and squash gives us vitamin A.

Early European settlers would have not survived without the gift of the “Three Sisters” garden from Native Americans. Native Americans kept this gardening style for centuries. Maybe they looked for signs in the environment indicating the right soil temperature and weather for planting. Some say when the dogwood leaves reach the size of a squirrel’s ear, planting season is here.

This was an interesting, enjoyable experience for me. I hope everyone else involved enjoyed it as much I did.

Mary Burke-Bass is president of the Sampson County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association.

By Mary Burke-Bass

Contributing columnist

Mary Burke-Bass is president of the Sampson County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Association.

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