The ancient Native American technique of growing Corn, Beans, and Squash together in an arrangement called the Three Sisters is the ultimate in companion planting and helps increase harvests, naturally!
Corn acts as a support for climbing bean vines, the beans fix nitrogen in the soil for the high feeding requirements of corn and squash, and the squash provides mulch and root protection for the corn and beans! After cooperating beautifully in the garden, corn and beans form a complete protein when eaten together! How's that for a mutually beneficial relationship?
The Three Sisters are all easy to direct sow in the garden and are a great project for children, teaching them about the beauty of natural harmony while providing a fast-growing reward for their efforts.
Make the best possible use of your garden space this season, and try growing the Three Sisters! Just follow the easy steps listed below, fertilize well, plant other companions like herbs to assist with pest control, and you'll be harvesting your best crop in no time!
The Iroquois believe corn, beans and squash are precious gifts from the Great Spirit, each watched over by one of three sisters spirits, called the De-o-ha-ko, or “Our Sustainers". The planting season is marked by ceremonies to honor them, and a festival commemorates the first harvest of “green” corn on the cob. By retelling the stories and performing annual rituals, Native Americans passed down the knowledge of growing, using and preserving the Three Sisters through generations.
In May or June when soil has warmed:
Shape a flat-topped circular mound of soil about a foot high and 2 feet across at the top, sloping outward toward the base. Plant a circle of Corn seeds on top, about 5 or 6, and water them in well, tamping down your soil mound firmly so it doesn't wash away in the first rain. Space the mounds 3 or 4 feet apart in the garden.
Since all corn grows on sturdy, dependable stalks, the variety you choose depends on the flavor, disease resistance, and holding ability you want. Sugar Buns is a Sugar Enhanced (SE) yellow hybrid with absolutely scrumptious golden kernels and is positively scrumptious. For SE whites, you can't beat Silver Princess, with extra-long ears bursting with flavor. And for the sweetest ears yet, you absolutely must try new Corn Mirai™, available in Yellow, White, Bicolor, and even a Mini!
About two weeks later:
When your corn reaches about 5 or 6 inches high, plant Bean seeds (6 to 8 of them) around the edges of the flat top or about halfway down the sloping sides of the circular mound. Push the seeds down deep into the soil and, if you're planting on the slope, make sure the soil is nice and firm. Add a bit of Nature's Aid at planting time to help the Beans fix nitrogen.