Corn, Beans & Squash – The Three Sisters

A Quick Fool-Proof Tip For North Florida Gardeners

Written by Trish Michaels3 Comments

These three veggies thrive effortlessly in North Florida when grown together.

These three veggies thrive effortlessly in North Florida gardens when grown together.


If you grow nothing else this spring, try “The Three Sisters.”  Corn, pole beans and squash are perfect garden companions.  They require little effort for a big organic harvest. My North Florida ancestors practiced this Native American technique for generations with great success.

What makes it so easy and fool-proof?  They grow together in one small area.  The corn provides a stalk for the beans.  The beans add nitrogen to the soil, nourishing the corn.  The squash covers the soil, keeping it moist and cool.  Together they naturally ward off pests, making it easy to grow organically.

Soil Preparation

Choose a sunny spot about 3 to 4 feet in diameter.  With a shovel, loosen the ground a couple feet deep and remove all grass and weeds.  Then, create a round mound of fertile soil and composted manure (like Black Kow) about a foot high.


In mid-March, sow 5 or 6 corn kernels in a small circle in the middle of the mound.  As the corn grows, it provides shade for the squash and a stalk for the climbing beans.


Two weeks later, when the corn is a couple inches tall, plant 7 or 8 pole beans in a circle about six inches from the corn.  The beans will look for something to grow up as they reach for sun.  If the bean vines don’t find the corn stalk, just manually wrap them around.  The beans convert sunlight into nitrogen for the soil, which organically feeds the corn.


A week or two later, when the beans have germinated, plant 7 or 8 squash seeds around the edge of the mound, about a foot away from the beans.  Use any type of squash – scallop, yellow, zucchini, pumpkin, etc.  Remove any weeds growing in the mound.  As the squash sprawls (and it will!) occasionally point the new growth toward the center of the mound so it shades the soil.  The squash provides ground cover that keeps the soil moist and cool – and discourages weeds.


Once the seedlings are established, weed out a couple of the weaker ones, leaving three or four of the strongest.  That’s all it takes to reap an effortless harvest of three popular North Florida veggies.  Try one mound or many!   Post a comment and photo on our FaceBook page so we can all celebrate your success.


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By Trish Michaels

I’ve been gardening organically for 20+ years. I'm mostly vegetarian. I love cooking what I grow and creating recipes to incorporate whole grains, beans and seeds. In my Jacksonville home, I lower my carbon footprint with solar power, rainwater harvesting, composting, waste reduction, etc. I'm eager to do more!I launched Sustainable North Florida in 2012 as a way to donate my digital marketing skills to help promote the many sustainable events and people greening our community - and to connect with other locals who share my passion for protecting natural resources, eating healthy and living green.My vision is a more sustainable community that lovingly supports one another with knowledge and resources. Jacksonville is a great place to call home!

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3 Comments on “Corn, Beans & Squash – The Three Sisters”

  1. Trish, it sounds like after thinning you will have 3 or 4 maize plants growing near each other in the middle. I take it in your experience that’s enough to more or less guarantee pollination?

  2. Trish, I just built the frame for my raised garden this weekend. I will try the “three sisters” idea to start with. I plan to grow tomatoes, as well. I live in the southside near Goodby’s Creek, so I hope it will do well in this area?