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Growing Beans, Corn, Squash Together

Updated on April 10, 2017
Bob Ewing profile image

Bob is a permaculture designer with 20 years of experience. He has grown food and flowers for even longer.

The 3 Sisters

The inspiration for this hub began germinating when I read an excellent hub on compatible planting by Zsuzsy bee. I know compatible planting as companion plating but basically only the names are different.

Companion or compatible planting is the first step towards understanding plant communities and how designing you garden as a functioning community of plants, that benefit from each others’ company, is a natural model that increases your garden’s vitality.Perhaps, one of the oldest plant communities that we know of is the Three Sisters, beans, corn and squash. It is a First Nations planting method that goes back for several centuries and is often associated with the Iroquois.

Now corn is not often a crop that a backyard gardener, unless the backyard is a good size will plant but it can be a great community garden crop and the sisters can make an excellent shared garden within a community garden.

However, if you have the space or simply want to experiment then the 3 sisters will increase your yield and reduce your labour.

The three plants work together to help one another grow and help the grower get a healthy crop. The beans grow up the corn stalks and provide the nitrogen that helps the corn grow and the squash is planted between the corn rows and acts as living mulch and thereby reduces the need to weed and water.

Growing Corn:

If you are planning to plant corn then you will need a minimum of three rows (ideally four) of about four feet in length. You will also need to leave a three-foot space between rows.

This minimum space allows adequate pollination for the corn. Corn is pollinated by pollen from its tassels (the tops of the corn plant). Corn usually only produces one or two ears per stalk.

Growing Beans:

There are basically two types of beans, pole beans and bush beans. Bush beans will stand on their own. Pole beans need support and thus are the beans one would plant with corn. Plant the bean seed at the base of the corn stalk. Beans grow faster than corn so the bean can be planted after the corn stalk has begun to grow.

Growing Squash:

A winter squash such as butternut is a good choice for the 3 Sisters garden. Squash need plenty of sun and good drainage, space plants at least 3 to 6 feet apart

3 sisters

courtesy flickr/Abri_Beluga
courtesy flickr/Abri_Beluga

Plant Community

The main reason that I am introducing you to the three sisters is to expand upon the plant community concept and to help you understand that your garden will achieve its best results when it grows naturally or at least when the design you choose is modeled on nature and not on an artificial construct.

When it comes to gardening, work and Life itself, we will thrive if we let Nature be our guide and teacher and model our activities after the lessons that nature provides each and every day.

Take a walk in a forest and watch the interaction between the beings who are there; see how the plants work together and observe the birds, insects and other creatures going about their business all intent on their own task but each apart in the Grand Dance that is Nature.

Now take a few minutes and think about your garden, how can you design it so that the dance continues in your backyard with all the performers doing what they do best. A few minutes spent in observation and in recording your observations can enrich your garden and possibly your Life.

Squash need plenty of sun and good drainage,

Beans and Corn

Growing Corn on Rooftops


Submit a Comment
  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    8 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks, I remember the first time I did this and was impressed by how well the pants performed, happy growing.

  • The Dirt Farmer profile image

    Jill Spencer 

    8 years ago from United States

    My grandpa did something similar--runner beans on corn. The squash he grew on mounds. Great hub!

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    8 years ago from New Brunswick

    Sunflowers are great plants, happy growing.

  • profile image

    growing beans 

    8 years ago

    I didn't know that squash was included. I use sunflower for the squash as a companion.

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    10 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks for dropping by and happy growing.

  • 2uesday profile image


    10 years ago

    I believe the three sisters system does work. I tried my own version of the three sisters growing method this summer Sweetcorn was very good, the beans were ok; next year might do better with a different bean, I used courgettes/zuccini instead of squash and they got mildew and did not pollinate. I think I can adapt this years trial and make the system work well. Interesting to read a page about it, thanks.

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    10 years ago from New Brunswick

    Thanks for dropping by.

  • Cailin Gallagher profile image

    Cailin Gallagher 

    10 years ago from New England

    Love the video too...

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    10 years ago from New Brunswick

    The three sisters, corn, beans and squash make great companions, thanks for dropping by.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Great video! Wish you had said more about companion planting of corn, vining green beans and squash and how they help each other. Also curious as to what region this is. It was mentioned several times, but never acually stated what region. All in all, a great video!!

  • betherickson profile image


    11 years ago from Minnesota

    Great Hub! Thanks for the Tips!!

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    12 years ago from New Brunswick

    thanks ff and I agree growing your own is the way to go.

  • firefly07 profile image


    12 years ago from UK

    great hub, there' nothing like growing your own food and eating it.

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    12 years ago from New Brunswick


  • bobw profile image


    12 years ago from Laurel, DE

    Nice hub, Bob. Very informative.

  • Bob Ewing profile imageAUTHOR

    Bob Ewing 

    12 years ago from New Brunswick


  • ponnu profile image


    12 years ago from Mumbai

    very informative.good video clip


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