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The three sisters: Why grow together corn, squash and beans

The three sisters

American Indians used to successfully grow corn, squash and beans together. They called this way of farming “the three sisters” because the three plants took care of each other and all grew together in harmony.

You too can use this knowledge and grow corn, squash and beans together.

Corn provides a natural scaffold on which the bean can climb. They simultaneously benefit from the nitrogen fixed by the bean roots.

The beans in turn fix nitrogen in their roots and help the corn to grow. In addition, bean help to stabilize the corn as they grow around it, providing additional support.

Squash with their large leaves provide shade. The large leaves of the pumpkins prevent the sun’s rays from reaching the soil and evaporating water. At the same time, the large leaves of squash stop the sun’s rays, preventing the growth of weeds. So the weeds do not grow and do not compete with the primary crop.

How to grow corn, squash and beans together

Choose to plant them in a place that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of summer sunlight.

Hoe well and enrich (fertilize) the soil with manure and/or compost.

Follow the following diagrams for seeding.

The diagrams show a sowing in a 3.2 * 3.2 meters arrangement (the maize should be sown in a parallelogram arrangement so that it can be pollinated). For each circle the arrangement in which the plants should be planted is shown.

Three sisters. A diagram of sowing corn, beans and squash together

Figure 1. Seeding diagram of corn, beans and squash in an area (approximately 10 square meters) of 3.2 * 3.2 meters.

Three sisters. Details of sowing corn, beans and squash together
Figure 2. Seeding detail in each circle.

KOLOK, KOL = Squash
KAL, K = Corn
FAS, F = Beans

Planting order

Attention! For the success of the project, the order of planting the seeds is important.

Plant the corn first (Figures 1 and 2). In each planting position, place 2 to 3 corn seeds. We keep the plant that is strongest so that we end up with one plant per location. Note, before planting the corn seeds put them in water for about 8 hours.

When the corn reaches 10 cm in height, it is time to plant the beans and squash.

In each location (Figures 1 and 2) sow 2 to 3 bean and pumpkin seeds. Eventually you will maintain the strongest plant. You will need to remove the weakest ones.


1. Bird Clan of E. Central Alabama: The Three Sisters
2. Cornell University Garden Based Learning: Three Sisters Garden- A Legend


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