Published on July 3rd, 2011 | by Becky Striepe1
Companion Planting: The Three Sisters
Companion planting is a great way to deter pests and grow a hearty garden with fewer inputs, and The Three Sisters is a companion planting super trio!
When I met up with my friend Kip at the Peach Jam last week, she told me about a companion planting method that she was wanting to try out called The Three Sisters. A couple of hours later, when I was checking out the local community garden, I ran across it again (pictured above). Twice in one day!
Obviously, I was meant to learn more about this magical companion planting trio!
What Are the Three Sisters?
The three sisters are corn, squash, and beans, and planting the three together benefits all of them. Here’s how, according to Renee’s Garden:
Corn provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb. Beans fix nitrogen on their roots, improving the overall fertility of the plot by providing nitrogen to the following years corn. Bean vines also help stabilize the corn plants, making them less vulnerable to blowing over in the wind. Shallow-rooted squash vines become a living mulch, shading emerging weeds and preventing soil moisture from evaporating, thereby improving the overall crops chances of survival in dry years. Spiny squash plants also help discourage predators from approaching the corn and beans. The large amount of crop residue from this planting combination can be incorporated back into the soil at the end of the season, to build up the organic matter and improve its structure.
Pretty cool, right? From what Kip was telling me, the trick is in the timing. If your squash gets big before the corn and beans, that helpful shade will also hinder the corn and bean plants, so it might take some experimenting to get this trio to take off. Once it does, though, they’re garden superheroes!
You can use pretty much any sort of beans, as long as they climb. Some bean plants grow into more of a bush, and that sort won’t work for this companion planting method.
Have you guys done any companion planting in your gardens? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!