Hands planting in the ground

The Three Sisters Planting Technique

The Three Sisters planting technique is a time-honoured method of companion planting, originating from Indigenous agricultural practices in North America. This method involves growing three crops—corn, beans, and squash—together in a symbiotic relationship. Each of these plants supports the others in unique ways, creating a sustainable and productive growing environment. This technique is well-suited for home growers in the UK, providing a rich, biodiverse garden space. Here’s how you can implement the Three Sisters planting technique in your garden.

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Corn Glass Gem

Understanding the Three Sisiters


Corn acts as the central support structure in this trio. It grows tall and provides a natural pole for the beans to climb. This vertical growth also maximises garden space.


Beans, specifically pole beans, climb up the corn stalks. They improve the soil by fixing nitrogen, a vital nutrient that benefits all three plants.


Squash plants spread out along the ground, creating a natural mulch that suppresses weeds and retains soil moisture. Their large leaves also provide shade, helping to prevent soil erosion and maintain a stable microclimate.

Preparing Your Garden

Choosing the Right Varieties

Selecting the right varieties for your climate is crucial. Opt for:

Soil Preparation

Ensure your soil is well-drained and fertile. Adding compost or well-rotted manure will improve soil structure and nutrient content. The site should receive full sun for most of the day.

Red beans

Planting the Three Sisters

Step 1: Planting Corn

  • Timing: Sow corn seeds after the last frost date when the soil has warmed to at least 10°C, typically late May to early June in the UK.
  • Spacing: Plant corn seeds in blocks rather than rows to ensure proper pollination. Space seeds about 30cm apart in each direction, creating a grid.

Step 2: Planting Beans

  • Timing: Once the corn reaches about 15cm in height, it’s time to plant the beans.
  • Spacing: Plant two bean seeds at the base of each corn stalk. If both seeds germinate, thin to the strongest seedling.

Step 3: Planting Squash

  • Timing: Plant squash seeds around the same time as the beans.
  • Spacing: Sow squash seeds about 90cm apart, surrounding the perimeter of the corn and bean plot. This spacing allows the squash vines to spread out without crowding the other plants.

Caring for Your Three Sisters Garden


Water the garden thoroughly after planting and keep the soil consistently moist, especially during dry periods. Mulching with straw or grass clippings can help retain moisture.


Weed the garden regularly until the squash plants have spread enough to suppress weed growth. Be careful not to disturb the roots of the corn and beans while weeding.


Although beans provide nitrogen, additional feeding can be beneficial. Apply a balanced organic liquid feed or additional compost around the plants, particularly for the corn, which is a heavy feeder.

Supporting the Plants

As the beans grow, guide them to climb the corn stalks. Corn can sometimes struggle to support the weight of the beans, especially in windy conditions. In such cases, using additional stakes or poles to support the corn might be necessary.

Cover Squash Kamo Kamo



Corn is typically ready for harvest when the silks turn brown and the kernels are plump and milky when pierced. This usually occurs about 3 months after planting.


Beans can be harvested once they reach a desirable size. Regular harvesting encourages more bean production.


Harvest summer squash when they are small and tender. Winter squash should be harvested when the skins are hard and the fruit sounds hollow when tapped.

Benefits of the Three Sisters Technique

  • Biodiversity: This method promotes biodiversity, which can help reduce pests and diseases.
  • Soil Health: Beans enrich the soil with nitrogen naturally, helping you to maintain an organic veg garden.
  • Space Efficiency: Vertical growth and ground coverage make efficient use of garden space.
  • Sustainability: The Three Sisters method aligns with sustainable gardening practices, promoting a healthy and productive garden ecosystem.

The Three Sisters planting technique is an effective and sustainable way to grow a variety of crops in the UK. By understanding the symbiotic relationship between corn, beans, and squash, home growers can create a productive and resilient garden. Embrace this ancient method, and enjoy the benefits of a rich, diverse, and bountiful harvest. Happy gardening!

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