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The Eye 11.10.12
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Plant clever companions
Healthy option: When corn plants are high enough, thin them out to four plants. Leave the healthiest looking plants behind.
When it comes to ultimate
companions in the garden,
take note of the North
American Indian tradition
and plant your vege patch with the three
This combination of corn, beans and
squash works well and has been in
existence for hundreds of years.
The corn (sunflowers were planted as
well) provides a structure for the beans
to grow up, the beans fix nitrogen in the
soil, improving its overall fertility, and
shallow-rooted squash becomes a living
mulch, shading the soil, reducing weeds
and conserving soil moisture.
The plants themselves grow well
together, and show clear evidence of
companion planting at its best.
To plant your own patch of three sisters,
choose a site that gets all-day sun and
dig in compost. A slow release fertiliser
may be beneficial too.
Create several mounds about 30
centimetres high and 50cm across,
giving your mound a level top. The
centre of each mound should be about
For good corn pollination you should be
looking at a patch about 3 metres by 3m.
A smaller patch may result in uneven
In the centre of each mound, plant six to
seven corn kernels in a small circle.
You won't end up with this many, but
it's best to plant more than you need.
When the corn seedlings reach 10cm
high, apply a balanced fertiliser. When
they reach 15cm to 20cm, sow six to
seven climbing beans, also in a circle,
15cm away from the corn plants.
Wait another week, then sow your
squash or pumpkin seeds on the edge of
the circle, about 30cm away from the
When the corn plants are about 20cm
high, thin them out to four plants. Leave
the healthiest looking plants behind.
Do the same for your beans and squash
when they're a reasonable size, thinning
beans to four plants and squash to two
plants each mound.
Do the same for the other mounds,
sowing seeds at the distances mentioned
above, and thinning seedlings as you go.
Most sweetcorn varieties are ready for
picking 90 to 100 days after planting,
although maturity often differs from
year to year, depending on the
In cooler areas, where the season is
shorter, it's best to choose early
Any climbing bean or squash variety
may be grown. You can experiment with
varieties of beans or squash on each
mound, but stick to the one corn variety
or the varieties will cross-pollinate.
Water and feed plants regularly. At such
close quarters, plants will be competing
for nutrients. Weed around the three
sisters until the squash leaves cover the
Your plants will grow, and a bumper
harvest should result.
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