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The Three Sisters Companion Planting

corn, peas and squash all growing together as companion plants
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Native Americans started the Three Sisters companion planting method hundreds of years ago and it’s still a productive gardening method today.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s how the Three Sisters Garden got started. Before there was machinery to clear and plow new ground, it all had to be done by hand with primitive tools.

Not an easy task but it was the only way to develop a garden spot. Since cleared land was scarce, the Native Americans made the most of the available garden space they had by planting three compatible plants in the same space.

The Three Sisters were born and this method is still a practical and viable way to grow as much food as possible from one small space. This is a wonderful example of companion planting!

an infographic of the three sisters planting method

Three Sisters Companion Planting Method

Corn, green beans (or peas), and squash (sometimes pumpkin) are the Three Sisters companion plants.

The three sisters plants provide benefits to each other so they are able to grow better together than they would if they were planted separately.

The original three sisters, corn, beans and squash, complement each other in the garden and also on the dinner plate. Fresh corn, beans, and squash have an infinite number of ways to be prepared together and served at the same meal.

Other plant combinations can be used in the Three Sisters gardening method, or just two plants can be used as companions.

The goal is to have the plants provide a benefit to each other so each will produce better in a smaller space.

Learn More about Who are The Three Sisters?

infographic on the three sister planting method in a row

From The How to Grow Series:

Why Are The Three Sisters Planted Together?

The Three Sisters are planted together as they are beneficial to each other. The tall corn stalks provide an upright trellis for the pole beans to grow up. This helps keep the beans off the ground and away from pests.

The bean blooms are filled with pollen and very attractive to the bees which benefits all three crops.

When the bean vine is growing upwards the small bean blooms are easily visible and accessible to the bees. The ripe beans are also easier to harvest when they are growing on the corn stalk.

The pole beans have deep roots and help to keep the shallow-rooted corn stalks anchored in the soil during times of heavy wind.

The corn will ripen before the beans have finished producing and the bean vines will keep the dying stalks securely in place.

The large leaves of the squash plants shade the shallow roots of the corn. They also shade the soil to prevent weed growth as well as retain soil moisture and act as a living mulch.

Corn stalks and bean vines are narrow and won’t shade the squash plants.

The squash will end production about the same time the ears of corn are ready to harvest; and, at that time, the first harvest of beans are ready to be picked.

This insures that harvest time is perfect so none of the plants are injured. All three are planted a couple of weeks apart to ensure they each have what they need to germinate and grow.

Stacked Gardening

The Three Sisters companion planting method is often called a “stacked” garden. It’s the same method of gardening that uses three layers to fill the space.

It’s a way to maximize the garden space you have so it can produce as much food as possible.

Different plants can be used in the stacked garden, like sunflowers, bush beans, and cucumbers.

In this garden scenario, the sunflower stalks provide a trellis for the cucumber vines; these vines then grow up and the bush beans provide the weed control.

By placing the plant that creates the tall stalks around the perimeter of the garden; deer and other animals have a harder time finding the beans and squash that they’re looking for.

Three Sisters Companion Planting  promom image

In Conclusion:

These three plants ~ corn, beans and pumpkins or squash ~ will be more productive when planted together; plus, the results are often that the vegetable flavor will be enhanced when companion plants are growing nearby.

These three plants when grown together actually act as Good Neighbors! Here is a very interesting information on how to plant a Three Sisters pdf.

This is another good planting tip from OriginalHomesteading.com!

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