Companion Planting with the Three Sisters Method

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Companion planting has become more popular in recent years because it helps to maximize available garden space and provides a sustainable environment for better crop production.

The truth is companion planting methods have been around for a very long time. In fact, the Native Americans might be some of the earliest known gardeners to use companion planting.

They used a planting technique called “The Three Sisters Method“.

Companion planting with the Three Sisters Method is a wise way of using available garden space and maximize yields.

What Is the Three Sisters Method?

Three Sisters GardenThe Three Sisters Method uses three different vegetables – corn, pole beans and squash.

Each vegetable is interplanted together so they benefit one another while growing and producing fruit.

The corn stalk provides a climbing support for the pole beans to grow up, the pole beans provide nitrogen in the soil for the corn, and the squash creates a living mulch to block out weeds and to conserve soil moisture for the pole beans and corn.

They are known as the “sisters”. A trio that works in complete harmony.

How to Plant a Three Sister Garden

For best results using the Three Sisters Garden, you will need an area that receives full sun and large enough to create a mound of soil that is about four square feet.

Mound up the soil about one foot high and two feet wide.

Flatten the top of the mound to create a level planting surface. You can also use a raised bed for the Three Sisters method if you have poor soil or drainage.

If you plan to create more than one make sure they are at least four to six feet apart.

In the center of the mound, plant the corn in a circle with the seeds spaced about six to seven inches apart. Water the seeds well after planting and continue to water each day until the seeds have sprouted in a couple weeks.

A Few Weeks After Planting the Three Sisters GardenOnce the corn has reached a height of ten to twelve inches sow the pole bean seeds in a circle six inches outside of the corn stalks.

The pole beans should sprout in seven to fourteen days. Remember to keep the mound well watered during this time.

A week after the pole beans have sprouted it is time to sow the squash seeds. Sow six squash seeds in a circle that is about twelve to fifteen inches away from the pole beans. Keep the entire mound watered well and the squash should pop up in about a week.

Make sure to train the pole beans to begin climbing up the corn stalks. You may need to begin wrapping the pole bean vines around the corn stalks to get them going in the right direction.

In just a few weeks the squash leaves will begin spreading out, shading the area and keeping the soil cool and moist.

Companion Planting with the Three Sisters Method

Using the Three Sisters method for growing corn, pole beans and squash is a really fun, space-saving way to incorporate companion planting in your vegetable garden.

Renee’s Garden makes the Three Sisters Garden really easy by offering the Three Sisters Garden bonus pack of seeds that comes with handy instructions on planting and caring for your garden.

It’s really great for children as well because they will have fun watching the three vegetable grow and work together. This will be a good lesson in gardening and a bit of history as well!

Have you ever grown a Three Sisters Garden? Are you going to include it in your vegetable garden this year?

Top image courtesy of Flickr user Abri_Beluga
Bottom image courtesy of Flickr user Timloco

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Comments

  1. I have used the three sisters approach for two years now, this will be my third. Last year it worked well in my raised beds that are about 3.5′ x 15′. I placed a block of corn on each end, each about 5′ long, with two rows of corn (8 stalks) each. I placed one bean seed at the side of each corn stalk. In the center of the bed I planted two winter squash plants. The squash was trained to trail through the corn and on the sides of the corn. It worked well, with the squash shading the soil. The only real disadvantage is that it was a little difficult to find the beans amid the corn stalks and I missed a few.

    The fourth sister, mentioned by some, can be bee balm, to attract bees to pollinate the beans and squash. Others have mentioned the fourth sister to be marigolds, to keep the Japanese beetles away.

    • Thanks for sharing your Three Sisters Garden method. Yes, I had trouble in the past getting the beans, and also had some cases where the beans wrapped around a few ears of corn. I would have to trim the bean vines to get to the corn ears. Not a real big issue though.

      I haven’t heard of a fourth sister, but they are both awesome ideas. You could probably add the bee balm and the marigolds if you wanted to for five sisters.

  2. I will be presenting a workshop on the Three Sisters Method of companion gardening. It’s so exciting to see these plants use each other for sources that many gardens instill in their gardens artificially.

  3. I use the 3 sisters in my garden every year. They do so gt eat together abd soarjwd myibrerest in companion planting. After discovering this technique I incorporated it into all my beds. Companion planting is highly. Beneficial and should be in any gardeners bag of tools.

  4. Diane Reece-Barry says:

    I used three sisters for the first time in my vegetable garden last year, after spending three years telling others about how it worked. Joy! Great fun and great produce, i can now recommend it to friends from an informed view. Best starter garden for children of all ages.

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