Native Americans planted these three crops together and called them the “Three Sisters.” This technique is a classic example of companion planting, where each plant benefits the other. The corn stalk becomes the pole for the climbing bean, bean roots fix nitrogen in the soil which in turn feeds the corn, and sprawling squash vines keep the roots of all three cool, suppress weeds and discourage pests from reaching the corn and beans. Each vegetable can also be planted in rows separately.
Before planting, conduct a simple soil test to make sure the soil is fertile (see more on soil tests), and add any organic amendments needed to the soil.
How to Plant the Three Sisters:
- Two weeks after the last frost date, make four low hills or mounds of soil about 1’ high and 4’ wide.
- After danger of frost has passed, plant 4-6 kernels of corn 1” deep and 1’ apart in a circle in the center of each mound.
- When the corn is about 5” tall, plant 4 bean seeds, 1” deep, evenly spaced, around each stalk.
- About a week later, plant 3 squash seeds, evenly spaced, around the perimeter edge of each mound.
- Add a 3” layer of compost along with an organic vegetable fertilizer to all the plants.