Sowing Three Sisters formation in Basin’s Backyard Garden

During the crop planning meeting Basin’s Backyard Garden volunteers held in April, “gardening with the three sisters” came up.

Deb Levchak, Basin Electric retiree and former senior counsel, wanted to give the three sisters formation a try.

As found on the NDSU Extension Service website and elsewhere online, according to Iroquois legend, the Three Sisters are believed to be the gift from the sun god, who created corn, beans and squash to keep the first people of the earth healthy. The Three Sisters were planted together in a circular mound garden, reflecting the never-ending cycle of nature. Each mound was 3 feet in diameter and had 4 to 6 corn plants in the middle. The beans provided nitrogen for the soil. The corn provided a stalk the bean plants could climb. The pumpkins’ leaves shaded the ground to keep weeds from sprouting.

Three Sisters Formation gardening

Lori Frisk-Thompson, Basin Electric regional transmission organization market specialist II, planting the beans and squash for the Three Sisters formation.

So, following the three sisters formation (detailed on the Penn State Extension website), corn was planted back in May when the rest of the garden was planted.

When the corn grows to about four inches tall, you can plant the beans and squash.

In Basin’s Backyard Garden, the corn is a little taller than that by now, but garden volunteers went ahead with the plan.

Last night, volunteers did a bunch of weeding, and finished out the three sisters formation. Because the formation requires making a bunch of holes for seeds, rather than dragging a rake down a line and dropping in seeds, planting took longer than expected. But we’re excited to see how this turns out!

Three Sisters gardening

Grace Baker, Basin Electric media distribution coordinator, tackling weeds.


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