Native Americans introduced the practice of companion planting to early settlers. Planting corn, beans and squash together, referred to as “the three sisters,” provided a balanced diet and made it possible to grow more food in one area. As farmers developed the tools to cultivate large areas of land, the practice declined. However, if you are limited on space, pole beans can be planted with corn. The corn stalk provides support for the beans while beans add nitrogen to the soil, improving the growth of corn in the next season.
Prepare the soil in an area that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of well-rotted manure or compost over the area and work it into the soil. Add granular fertilizer following the recommended application rate on the package.
Mark three or more rows for planting. A length of 10 feet is recommended. Space rows 5 feet apart. Corn requires cross-pollination and does not grow well if planted in one long row. Three or more short rows are preferable to one or two long rows.
Create mounds of soil at least 18 inches in diameter spaced 5 feet apart in the rows. Mound the soil to a height of 4 to 6 inches with a garden hoe or rake. Alternate mounds in each row, creating a staggered group of mounds. Rake the top smooth.
Plant four corn seeds to a depth of 1 inch in each mound, spaced 6 inches apart in all directions. Water thoroughly and keep evenly moist until seedlings emerge in five to seven days.
Plant beans when the corn is 4 inches high. This gives the corn time to grow before beans begin to climb the stalk. Plant four bean seeds to a depth of 1 inch in each hill, spacing them 3 inches from the corn plants. Water thoroughly and keep soil evenly moist until bean seedlings emerge in seven to 10 days.