When looking at trying to make our garden more productive, we learned about a method of companion planting called a 3 sisters garden that I believe came from the Native Americans.
The 3 Sisters Garden is a grouping (I guess that pairing isn’t the right word here) of corn, beans and squash. They all compliment each other in a symbiotic relationship. The corn provides a natural structure for the beans to climb on. The beans “fix” nitrogen on their roots, improving the overall fertility of area. The beans also help stabilize the corn so that they are less vulnerable to blowing over in the wind. Squash vines, which are shallow rooted, help to retain water in the soil as well as shade out any weeds that may come along.
Corn, beans and squash also complement each other nutritionally. The corn provides carbohydrates, the dried beans are rich in protein and the squash contains.
In addition, after harvest, all of this can be mulched to improve the soil for next year.
When you plan this out, this garden has to be planted in full sun.
Below is the layout for the mounds and the corn placement. We'll then look at how the rest of the garden is laid out.
To plant corn, you first make 18” diameter mounds (with flattened tops), each one 5 feet apart from the previous one. You then plant the corn in a 6” square with each corn plant in the middle of the line of the square. See figures.
Allow the corn to grow by itself until it is 4” high. Now, weed the area and plant the beans and squash. The beans should be planted on the corners of each square as shown below.
Following planting the beans, plant the squash by creating 18” mounds in the middle of the corn and bean mounds. Plant 3 squash seeds in a 4” x 4” x 4” triangle in the center of the mound. Later you will have to thin the squash to 2 plants.
This was our first attempt at planting this type of garden and in spite of that, it turned out wonderfully!
I hope that this helps you with your 3 sisters garden.