3 Sisters Garden – Powerful Pairing of Beans, Corn and Squash

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Have you heard a 3 sisters garden? The three sisters crops include beans, corn, and squash – three plants that grow very well together. Growing this trio in close proximity in the garden brings benefits for all three plants.

I personally have not tried a 3 sisters garden yet, but it’s interesting to me and I plan to try it one day.

Perhaps I will start with growing corn beans and squash together in a raised bed or container garden.

In the meantime, I’ve had the joy of interviewing an experienced gardener who can advise on the three sisters planting method.

Paul DeRose of ThePoolGardener.com enjoys 30+ years of gardening experience and grows quite a unique garden with his son, Mike. You simply must see it to believe it!

The Pool Garden came to life when Paul moved from the country to this home with an old pool that proved more rewarding to upcycle than restore.

The Pool Garden has an impressive green bean arbor along with vast square footage for many different crops.

Paul DeRose the Pool Gardener under the green beans by his deck, Photo Courtesy of ThePoolGardener.com
Photo Courtesy of ThePoolGardener.com

What Are the Three Sisters Crops?

“Green beans, squash, potatoes, and corn are the plants that have always been in my garden and done well for me,” says Paul DeRose, who grows in Dowagiac, Michigan. 

“I do not start any of these inside and directly plant all of them into the garden,” he says.

What Is the Three Sisters Garden History?

“Corn, bean, and squash are companion plants known as ‘The Three Sisters’ that have been planted together by Native Americans for a long time in the Americas,” DeRose says.

“Traditionally, corn plants would give a support for the bean plants to climb and bean plants are nitrogen fixing and so would supply nitrogen to the corn plants,” he says of the Native American Three Sisters Garden. “Squash plants had their large leaves that would shade the ground keeping out weeds and helping the soil to retain moisture.”

“We can vouch for the truth of this as we commonly find volunteer bean plants climbing corn plants,” DeRose adds.

Companion Planting 3 Sisters Garden: Corn Beans Squash

Growing corn, beans, and squash together optimizes your garden space and introduces benefits for each of the three sisters crops.

Baby Popcorn Plant Growing - Corn is one of the 3 Sisters Garden Crops

Growing Corn and Beans Together with Squash

Planting corn with beans saves space and provides a natural trellis for pole beans to climb. (You can also create a bamboo pole bean teepee easily at home! Check out mine!)

Here are some tips for your three sisters raised garden bed:

  • Start the corn first so it has time to grow tall enough to serve its purpose.
  • Plant the beans and squash 3 to 4 inches away once the corn is at least 6 inches tall.
  • Train the pole beans to grow around the corn, using it as a natural trellis.

Alternatively, you can grow your beans up another fence or trellis if you wish.

“We grow beans along the shallow end of the pool where we made a 10-foot makeshift wooden trellis that they climb with very little assistance,” says The Pool Gardener Paul DeRose. “From there we run pieces of twine over to our porch roof, about another 10-foot run.”

“By the end of September, the beans have covered the distance from the trellis to the porch and are full of beans. In total, the bean plants are about 20′ long. “

“Green beans are excellent when they’re cooked fresh,” he adds. “The pods have a great taste. After this period beans can be stored easily for later to cook like any other dry bean.”

Since squash leaves help to shade the roots, this final plant is very important in the 3 sisters garden.

Yellow Squash Plant Growing with Beans and Corn - Three Sisters Gardening

“Squash has always been a good producer for me,” says Paul DeRose. “Plant some in a mulch pile and they’ll grow into beautiful, healthy looking, sprawling plants.”

“You can also eat the leaves of the squash plant for greens. Mixed with peanut butter and tomato makes a great tasting meal. Don’t eat all the leaves or the plant won’t produce well, about 1 out of 3.”

Companion Planting: Corn, Squash and Beans – the Three Sisters

Planting the three sisters crops together is easy when you start with a plan.

When three sisters gardening, these three crops will live together very nicely as companion plants.

If you find your gardening space is limited and you need to add other plants nearby, however, you should check companions one by one across all three sisters.

  • Potatoes, for example, grow well with corn and beans. Plant them too close to squash, however, and you may find yourself facing problems of potato blight. The potato harvest may also disrupt the squash plants’ root system.
  • Nasturtiums grow well with both beans and corn as well as squash.
  • Cucumbers also grow well with corn and beans. Squash and cucumbers (both from the same family, Cucurbitaceae) like room to roam, so be sure to plan your garden vertically or with lots of space if you’ll plant these crops nearby.

By the way, if you like this post, be sure to check out our other posts on Companion Plants!

Planting the Three Sisters in a Raised Bed

Because we have awful rocky clay soil, I will be planting the three sisters in a raised bed or large 20-gallon grow bag. I will report back and update this post with my experiences.

Right now, the three sisters method is on my radar for my 2021 garden. My plan is to first plant 50% sweet corn seeds and 50% popcorn seeds for fun! (Unless, of course, I can get my hands on some glass gem corn!)

I’m planning to grow Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans (delicious green beans!) and Royal Burgundy Pole Beans to pair with them.

I’ll also look to try a mix of yellow straight-neck squash and yellow crookneck squash for the final companion. Or possibly zucchini!

Planting the three sisters in a raised bed (or even growing three sisters in containers!) will be a fun experiment where I get to teach my daughters a little bit of rich history as well!

Green, Wax and Royal Burgundy Beans in a Yellow Colander

Final Thoughts: 3 Sisters Garden

Growing beans, corn, and squash together in the same garden, raised bed, or container offers a lot of benefits.

This ages-old planting strategy is easy enough for gardeners of any level and experience to try.

The Three Sisters planting method works well in a traditional garden and also in gardens of limited space, such as a grow bag, container garden, or raised garden bed.

Are you planning on growing a 3 sisters garden? Have you had luck with this gardening technique in the past?

We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below! And please be sure to share this fun post so your friends can learn about 3 Sisters Gardening and the unique and fun gardening charm of ThePoolGardener.com!

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  1. Dear Kate,

    Thank you for the wonderful article and glowing representation of our garden! I looked through your site again and enjoyed the experience. I love fragrant flowers and how you discuss them at length. One of the best fragrant plants I’ve found grows in the deep South, flowering 4+months in the Winter with a sweet fragrance that can travel over 45 feet away. It even has an accent petal different than the others, like some orchids do. If I stop going to Florida for the Winters, I am considering growing one in a container in Michigan. Orchid Tree, Bauhinia, official tree of Hong Kong; check it out… This and citrus tree blossoms are real uppers.


    1. Dear Paul, it was such a pleasure learning about your garden and sharing it here. I will check out your recommendation for Orchid Tree – it sounds absolutely lovely and the fragrance would be amazing! We have a few baby lemon trees growing and I can’t wait for them to mature and produce blossoms and hopefully fruit.

      Wishing you a successful and wonderful gardening season!


      1. We were able to come by Choctaw squash seed. This seed is one of the three sisters. A lady in New York had this seeds on storage. This the third year to raise them. Very one loves them, they make the best pies and are much better for you than pumpkin requiring much less sugar. [email protected]

        1. Hi Jerry, thanks so much for sharing your story with us – wow, that is pretty amazing you’ve come across the Choctaw squash seed! The real authentic 3 sisters! They sound delicious and I wish you so much success with them! Do you find any trouble with the squash vine borers? Best wishes in your garden!

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