How to Grow a 3 Sisters Garden

I started a '3 Sisters Garden' over the weekend and thought I'd put some instructions together to outline how to plan, plant, and grow one. Growing a 3 Sisters Garden is easy and fun. It's a good way to grow a lot of plants in a relatively small garden space and also a great way to introduce children to gardening and the concept of companion planting.

What is a Three Sisters Garden?

A Three Sisters Garden is an ancient Native American companion planting method for growing corn, beans, & squash. When grown together, these ‘sister’ plants complement each other & the companion planting method helps each plant to grow better and stronger in a small garden space: the corn offers a climbing support for the beans, the beans fix nitrogen into the soil for both the corn and squash to use, and the squash provides shade and a living mulch for the other plants and helps to deter pests with their prickly leaves.

How to Plant a Three Sisters Garden

Start with a 10 ft x 10 ft planting area. It's important that the garden be at least this size to ensure that your corn is pollinated.

Divide the planting area into 3 rows, each 5 feet apart.

Create 5 planting circles or mounds in each row (each should be approx. 2 feet in diameter). You can make small mounds to improve drainage, if needed.

How to Plant a Three Sisters Garden

Alternate planting either 3 squash seeds or 4 corn seeds in every other mound.
For the corn mounds, plant 4 corn seeds in a cross pattern. Plant the 3 squash seeds in a triangle pattern.

3 Sisters Garden Planting Example

When the corn is about 4 inches tall, plant beans in each corn mound. Since the beans will be growing up the corn, you need to give the corn a little head start. It's important that you wait for the corn to come up a bit before planting the beans.

You'll need to keep the garden well weeded, especially until the squash get large enough to help suppress the weeks. But otherwise, with regular watering your 3 Sisters Garden should be pretty self sustaining.

Infographic for Planting a 3 Sisters GardenClick here to download a printable PDF infographic with instructions for planting a Three Sisters Garden!





May 14 2014

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