Three Sisters

| 6/5/2014 11:12:00 AM

Tags: Three Sisters Planting, Companion Planting, Corn Beans and Squash, Gina Gaines,

Gina GainesPlanting the "three sisters" (corn, beans and squash) together promotes good health for each. Beans provide nitrogen for all three, but especially the nitrogen-greedy corn.  Corn also needs lots of moisture, which the large squash leaves preserve by keeping the soil shaded.  The corn, in turn, provides a natural support for the beans and additional cover for the squash in very hot climates.  The beans also keep the three "bundled" together, making it difficult for prowling animals and heavy winds to damage them.  Unfortunately, it also can make harvesting for us humans a little more difficult as well.  


I planted my three sisters at the same time this year because I was in a hurry. It looks like the beans are "loving the corn stalks to death" and may even pull them down if I don't add some stakes.  Next year, I'll be sure to go back to the original plan and let the corn get two or three feet tall before planting the beans. The squash always goes in at the same time as the corn.  I plant mine in 4-foot-wide circles so I can reach my short arms into the center from all sides to harvest.

Next year I may try a fun experiment and plant a very tall variety of corn in a 6 foot circle.  As the corn grows, I'll gently bend the stalks toward a pole positioned in the center of the circle, creating a tee-pee for my grandchildren to play in. I'll plant the squash and beans at the outer edge of the corn circle so the corn will still have her sisters to "play" with when the kids are away.  Experimenting with new ideas is part of the fun of gardening, so why not have a little fun?

9/29/2014 8:39:52 AM

Now that summer's over, I've had a chance to see how well my "sisters" fared. Just as I'd feared, the corn had to be propped up with stakes to withstand the weight of the beans. I've never raked in a "bumper crop" with this method, or any other organic approach, but it works well here in the South's long hot summers. Taller varieties of corn make a huge difference in your success, as well as planting the beans after the corn is at least a foot tall. The squash below act as a wonderful living mulch, but there are many other veges you could plant around the base of the corn to achieve the same purpose. During our insufferably hot summers, mulch is a garden life saver.

6/8/2014 9:36:11 AM

Gina, I tried the three sisters planting method one year and was a little disappointed. I expected better results. I thought I'd have a bumper crop of all three but found that wasn't the case. Planting for the novelty of it was interesting but as far as crop improvement, I didn't see it. I planted sweet corn instead of the stronger taller corn. The pole beans completed over took the corn which didn't do well. Even the beans were a little anemic. It was a fun thing for one year but I'm not going to repeat it. Gardening should be about trying new things and having fun with it. This was one of those things for me. I hope you have the same fun experience but don't expect bumper crops. In theory it sounds great but in reality, not so much for me anyway. ***** Have a great three sisters garden day.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!