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Three Sisters Planting Method

By Lori Litchman ; Updated September 21, 2017
Corn and squash are part of the Three Sisters planting method
pumpkins and corn straw image by ulga from Fotolia.com

The Three Sisters planting method consists of interplanting of corn, beans, and squash. This method of planting is believed to have originated with Native Americans and is a form of companion planting.

What Are the Three Sisters?

The Three Sisters are the three vegetables: corn, beans, and squash. These "three sisters" thrive when planted together, each complementing and benefiting the other. All three are planted on the same mound of soil.


Early Mesoamerican societies domesticated corn, beans, and squash, and Native Americans depended on this planting method throughout most farming societies for centuries. These native peoples introduced this planting method to early European settlers to America. These settlers would not have survived without the nutritional benefits of these three vegetables.


There is a very specific process in place for Three Sisters planting. First, the corn is planted in a mount of dirt and allowed to start growing. Once it's a few inches tall, the beans and squash are planted. The corn plant acts as a pole for the beans to climb, while the squash covers the mound and prevents weeds from growing.


Growing the Three Sisters benefits all three vegetables. Beans are natural nitrogen-fixing plants, improving the soil's health. The bean plants also use the corn stalk as a stake, while at the same time holding the stalk up against wings. The squash shades the soil and protects both the corn and beans from being choked out by weeds.

All three of these vegetables are nutritional complements to each other. Beans are rich in protein, while corn is high in carbohydrates. The squash contains Vitamin A and healthy oils in the seeds.


The timing of planting is key in this growing method. The corn must grow several inches before the beans and squash can be planted. Also, corn requires at least a 10 foot by 10 foot growing space to ensure proper pollination. A smaller planting will produce a smaller yield of vegetables.


About the Author


Lori Litchman is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia and has eight years of experience as a professional writer. She holds a master's degree in education and an M.F.A in creative writing. She has been published in "The National Law Journal," "Forest," "Pennsylvania" magazine and several online publications. She has also worked as an environmental educator.