Companion Planting to Maximize Garden Space


| 5/29/2018 8:19:00 AM


Photos by Rebecca Anne Cole

When I first started my garden I made sure each vegetable variety had its own designated row. I wanted my garden to resemble a compact version of a farmer’s field, with meticulous crops carefully maintained in systematic rows.  

While my garden looked neat and tidy, it limited my ability to grow a wide variety of vegetables in the small space I had to work with. I soon realized that I could grow a lot more vegetables and experiment with different heirlooms if I was open to comingling plant varieties.

Three Sisters Planting  

The first companion planting I tried was a Native American method called Three Sisters. The technique consists of corn, beans and squash planted close together in the same garden space. The corn is planted first to provide support for the beans, followed by squash which serves as a ground cover. Using this method, I was able to grow three vegetable varieties in the space that would have housed only one using traditional crop rows.  



To plant the Three Sisters, I used the mouth of a 5 gallon bucket to imprint a circle in the soil, leaving enough room in between circles to walk. Then I sowed corn seeds (Dorinny Sweet and Country Gentleman are my favorite) 6” apart in the outline of the circle. When sprouts appeared, I planted bean seeds on either side of each corn sprout. Any variety of climbing beans will work. I used a combination of lima beans and pole beans. Squash is planted last, after the beans have emerged. I sowed squash seeds in the middle of the circle so that the vines would extend out and provide ground cover. A vine type of squash works best.



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