Early Native Americans traditionally planted corn, squash and beans together. These crops grew so well together that they became known as the Three Sisters. Here is a classic example of companion gardening where each plant helps another. The corn stalks provide a trellis for the beans to climb, the beans provide nitrogen for the corn and squash. The squash in turn provides protection for the beans and corn by shading the soil and discouraging pests with their spiny stems. Growing a Three Sisters garden would be an excellent lesson for kids about co-dependence and growing food.
This garden theme is fun with kids because the plants grow fast and they grow big. The seeds themselves are relatively large and easier for little hands to handle and plant. These veggies all like to grow in warm soil, so wait until the first or second week of June to start. This garden needs its own spot with good soil and full sun. To begin, build up a gently sloping mound of soil. Incorporate a granular vegetable fertilizer into the soil. Plant the corn seeds in the center. Wait a couple of weeks until the corn has grown up about 6 inches then surround the corn with bean seeds. Plant the squash seeds surrounding the corn and beans, on the sloping edge of the mound.
- Corn: Choose any short season variety or buy starts from a garden center.
- Beans: Pole beans are traditionally grown in this garden, but bush beans would be fine too. Sow seed directly into the prepared area.
- Squash: Zucchini and yellow summer squash are the easiest bets for our region. Sow from seed or buy starts from a garden center.