The Beauty of the Three Sisters

I recently came across this explanation of the Three Sisters system of planting… (shout out to the Botanic Garden in Dublin!)

The Three Sisters system of planting originated with indigenous farmers in North America. Three plants – corn, beans and squash, each does a different job, like three sisters helping each other out. 

The corn grows tall and straight and acts as a support up which the beans can grow. 

The beans’ roots help trap beneficial nutrients in the soil which it feeds back. 

The squash grows flat to the ground covering the soil quickly, suppressing weeds. 

When harvested each crop provides an array of nutrients and gives three harvests from one space. This form of ancient companion planting has been seen in archaeological records and is thought to have been practiced up to 5,000 years ago.

This ancient practice of the Three Sisters obviously teaches us beautiful lessons today about planting, about using our natural resources well, being careful with space & scarce resources.

It shows us how allowing a variety of planting in the same space naturally enriches the soil & reduces the need for pesticides. 

For me, Three Sisters also talks to me about more than that. It’s not only a metaphor about cooperating & coexisting together as living creatures on this earth, about making things better together — though that’s a thing we feel passionate about in Saoro… —how we can be in the space of collaboration & not competition.

This planting practice also brings to mind the unique aspects of how each of us contributes in our own way & in a different way than others do…

I’ve looked at others & often compared myself which leads me to either self-blame or sometimes, to self-inflation. I might look at one person & think: they’re more dynamic than me, or more in flow, achieving more. Or at another person & think: they seem less still than I am, or less reflective.

If I look at what I am really saying in that moment…

I should be better or different, or

You should be better or different

So the Three Sisters reminds me also not to compare (& judge) myself & others. To let you grow tall, and me grow flat along the ground, to let her grow deep or him to spread… there’s not only room for us all, but we’re all needed & we all contribute – no matter what our tendency, nature or our role…

We’re all in this world, doing this dance, in our own way. If I remember that, then I can be me, & let you be you, thriving together, helping each other without fear, judgment or a mentality of scarcity.


By: Deirdre Gleeson

Images: Garlan Miles, Wikipedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 & Hannah Busing

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Deirdre Gleeson
Deirdre Gleeson
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