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3 Sisters Planting: A Comprehensive Guide to Growing Corn, Beans, and Squash Together

3 sister planting

What is 3 Sister Planting?

Three sisters planting, also known as companion planting, involves growing corn, beans, and squash together in the same plot of land. This ancient agricultural practice has been used for centuries by indigenous peoples across North America, including the Iroquois, Cherokee, and Hopi tribes.

The Benefits of 3 Sister Planting


Growing three different crops together creates a diverse ecosystem that benefits all plants involved. The corn provides a structure for the beans to climb, while the beans fix nitrogen into the soil, which helps the corn and squash grow. The large, sprawling squash leaves provide shade that helps retain moisture in the soil and suppresses weeds.


When eaten together, the three sister plants provide a balanced meal rich in nutrients. Corn is a good source of carbohydrates, beans are high in protein, and squash provides vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.


Since the three plants rely on each other to thrive, they can be grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. This makes it an eco-friendly and sustainable way to grow food.

How to Plant the 3 Sisters

Choosing the Right Location

The three sister plants need full sun and well-drained soil. Choose a location that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight per day and has good drainage. Avoid planting in areas prone to flooding or standing water.

Preparing the Soil

Before planting, prepare the soil by removing any weeds or rocks and adding compost or aged manure. The soil should be loose and crumbly, with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5.

Planting the Corn

Plant the corn first, in hills spaced about three feet apart. Each hill should have four to six seeds planted one inch deep. Cover with soil and water well.

Planting the Beans

Two weeks after planting the corn, plant the beans around the base of each corn stalk. Plant four to six bean seeds per corn stalk, about one inch deep. The beans will grow up the corn stalks and fix nitrogen into the soil.

Planting the Squash

One week after planting the beans, plant the squash in mounds between the corn hills. Plant four to six seeds per mound, one inch deep. The squash will spread out and provide shade for the soil and roots underneath.

Caring for the Three Sisters


The three sister plants need consistent moisture, especially during the first few weeks after planting. Water deeply once or twice a week, depending on rainfall and soil moisture levels. Avoid getting water on the leaves, as this can encourage disease.

Weed Control

Keep the area around the three sisters plot free of weeds, which can compete with the plants for nutrients and water. Hand-pull weeds or use a hoe to gently remove them.

Pest Control

Monitor the three sister plants for pests like aphids, cucumber beetles, and squash bugs. Remove any affected leaves or plants and consider using organic pest control methods like insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Harvesting the Three Sisters


Corn is ready to harvest when the ears are fully formed and the kernels are plump and milky. Test a few ears by peeling back the husk and piercing a kernel with your fingernail. If the liquid inside is milky, the corn is ready to harvest.


Beans are ready to harvest when they are firm and elongated, but not yet bulging with seeds. Harvest beans every two to three days to encourage continued production.


Squash is ready to harvest when it is firm and the skin is hard enough to resist puncture with a thumbnail. Cut the squash from the vine with a sharp knife, leaving a small stem attached.


Q: Can I grow other crops with the three sisters?

A: Yes, you can add other companion plants like herbs, flowers, or root vegetables to your three sisters plot. Just make sure they don't compete with the corn, beans, and squash for sunlight, water, or nutrients.

Q: What if my soil pH is too high or too low?

A: You can adjust the pH of your soil by adding lime or sulfur. Aim for a pH between 6.0 and 7.5 for optimal three sisters growth.

Q: How do I prevent the corn from falling over in strong winds?

A: You can tie the corn stalks together at the top with twine, or plant the corn in a zig-zag pattern instead of straight rows to provide more support.

Q: Can I save seeds from my three sisters plants?

A: Yes, you can save seeds from your corn, beans, and squash for next year's planting. Make sure to store them in a cool, dry place.

Q: How long does it take for the three sisters to mature?

A: Corn takes about 60-100 days to mature, depending on the variety. Beans take about 50-60 days to mature, and squash takes 80-120 days to mature.

Three sisters planting is a time-tested method of growing food that provides numerous benefits to both the plants and the environment. By planting corn, beans, and squash together, you can create a diverse, nutrient-rich ecosystem that requires minimal inputs and produces maximum yields. With a little planning and care, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor and the satisfaction of growing your own food using this ancient technique.

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