Time-tested planting technique is visually attractive and extremely productive.

In a The Three Sisters Garden, pole beans use the corn plants as a trellis.

This Native American planting technique is the epitome of companion planting. The Three Sisters—corn, bean and squash—help each other in various ways. The corn provides support for the pole beans; the beans add nitrogen to the soil which helps the corn grow; and the squash covers the ground, keeping the soil moist and minimizing weed growth. And together, these three vegetables provide a nutritionally balanced meal!

Best of all, once you’ve planted a Three Sisters Garden, it practically takes care of itself. Here’s how to do it:

Create one or more mounds of soil about a foot high and 18 to 20 inches across. Add a heaping cup of our organic All-Purpose Fertilizer and mix it into the top 6 inches of soil. Sow 5 or 6 corn seeds in a circle, about 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart.
Once the corn plants have reached a height of 5 or 6 inches, plant 4 to 6 pole bean seeds near the base of the stalks. Next, plant 4 to 6 squash seeds about 12 inches from where you planted the beans.
Water the seeds after planting, and keep the soil consistently moist for a week or two, while the seeds are germinating. As the beans begin to grow, they’ll need some assistance grabbing the corn stalks. You can help by gently guiding the ends of the vines up onto the stalks. In mid-July, side dress each mound with another cup of All-Purpose Fertilizer.

Beans will be the first crop to harvest. Picking frequently encourages the plants to continue producing more beans. The corn will be ready to harvest next. Corn is wind pollinated, so for good pollination (and kernel formation), it’s best to grow a stand of at least 20 stalks of the same variety. You can do this by planting five corn stalks on four Three Sisters mounds.

Traditionally, the Three Sisters Garden contains winter squash, such as Hubbard, butternut, acorn or ‘Delicata’. But it’s also possible to grow summer squash, if that’s your preference. This is a time-tested planting technique that’s also visually attractive and extremely productive. Whether you grow a Three Sisters
Garden for food or for curiosity, you’ll be glad you did!

-David Grist
Online Content Coordinator, Gardener’s Supply