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Container gardening with the three sisters

Planting the 3 sisters is rooted in history and nutritional value.
Planting the 3 sisters is rooted in history and nutritional value.
Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Container gardening with the three sisters may seem an ambitious gardening endeavor. In fact, the three sisters (corn, beans and squash) are compatible regardless of where they are planted. Container gardening is more versatile than imagined. The three sisters are also easily adaptable, making this an ideal combination. Here's a simple how to for planting them in a container when space is limited.

Three sisters?

Why are corn, beans and squash known as the three sisters? Corn, beans and squash are often grown together, as they benefit each other. Corn uses a lot of nitrogen. Beans provide the nitrogen for the corn. Beans need a place to climb. Corn stalks are excellent bean poles. Squash covers the ground for weed control.

Instructions for growing the 3 sisters in a container


A half barrel container is the right size for this gardening project. Add small rocks or shells to a depth of 5-6 inches at the bottom of the barrel. This will provide adequate drainage. I like to use mushroom compost as potting soil. It's richer in nutrients than regular potting soil. Mushroom compost is available where gardening supplies are sold. Soil for the three sisters should end about 6 inches from the top of the barrel.

Sowing the corn seeds

Sowing seeds for the three sisters in a container is a bit different than in a garden. Three corn stalks, beans and squash plants is the limit in the container, four in regular gardening. Imagine a 6 inch triangle in the center of the container. Plant 2 corn seeds together at each corner of the imaginary triangle at a depth of 1 ½ inches. When the seeds sprout, keep the healthiest one and remove the other from each corner. Wait for the corn to grow to a height of 6 inches before planting the other two sisters.

Sowing the bean and squash seeds

Make a three inch triangle by sewing three beans seeds around the center of the corn. The depth of the beans should be about 1-2 inches. Now make a triangle with three squash seeds about six inches away from the corn. The depth of the squash seeds should be about 1-2 inches inches as well. Some people place two seeds per hole in case one is faulty. Water generously and keep soil damp until seeds have sprouted. Do not over-water, once the seedlings have emerged.

Note: Be sure to plant vine beans, rather than bush beans or you will have a cluttered mess.

How it works

The corn has a head start on the other two sisters. This allows it to become the pole for the beans. In exchange, the corn draws nitrogen from the beans to fertilize itself. The squash should spread along the top of the container and down the sides. This makes for a very pretty container but also prevents the necessity of weeding. Therefore, your three sisters container garden is completely maintenance free aside from watering.

This article was previously published on Yahoo! By this author. It has been updated and modified for Examiner.

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