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How To Grow Sweetcorn, Beans and Squashes Using The Three Sisters Method

The Three Sisters Bed At Our Award Winning Show GardenThe tradition of growing sweetcorn beans and squashes together is laid down in the legends of the Iroquois people (Native North Americans) who believed that corn, beans and squash were three inseparable sisters and would only grow and thrive together. Bringing things right up to date it is actually easy to identify that the method is a sustainable growing method providing long-term soil fertility and maximises growing space.

The sweetcorn provides a natural support for the beans whilst the beans help to stabilise the corn plants, making them less vulnerable to blowing over in the wind. The shallow rooted squash plants become a living mulch, smothering emerging weeds and reducing water evaporation from the soil - thus improving the overall crops' chances of survival in dry years. The beans fix nitrogen on their roots, improving the fertility of the soil for the following year - couple that with the huge amount of vegetation produced by the combination that can be dug in or composted and the sustainability of the method soon proves itself.

Success when growing on the Three Sisters system does need some careful attention to timing and seed spacing; if you simply plant all three in the same hole at the same time you will end up with a tangle of beans and squashes fighting for supremacy and overwhelming the sweetcorn completely! You may use any of our varieties of Sweetcorn and either Climbing French Beans, Runner Beans or Borlotto Beans. All our Squash and Pumpkin varieties are suitable for this planting scheme - though those with a trailing habit (Winter Squashes and Pumpkins) will obviously cover a greater area.

Planting Out

Ideally you need an area a minimum of 10 x 10 feet (3 x 3 metres). Should you wish to scale up that is fine; if you scale down for smaller areas you may find that your sweetcorn may not pollinate properly and you will not get full cobs.

  • With string lines mark off three 10 feet (3 metres) rows, 5 feet (1.5 metres) apart.
  • In each row mound up the soil in five mounds approximately 18" (45 cm) in diameter and 2½ feet (75 cm) from the centre of one to the next.
  • Starting with one of the outer rows plant in the second and fourth mounds 4 sweetcorn plants in each. Set the plants out 6" (15 cm) apart in a square pattern.
  • In the middle row plant in the first, third and fifth mounds 4 sweetcorn plant in each. Set the plants out 6" (15 cm) apart in a square pattern.
  • In the other outer row plant in the second and fourth mounds 4 sweetcorn plants in each. Set the plants out 6" (15 cm) apart in a square pattern.
  • When the sweetcorn has grown to around 12" (30 cm) tall you can plant out your squash plants and sow your bean seeds. First weed off the entire patch before sowing 4 bean seeds in each sweetcorn mound. Sow the seeds equally spaced 3" (7.5 cm) away from the sweetcorn plants.
  • Now plant two squash plants in each of the vacant mounds (1, 3 & 5 in row one; 2 & 4 in row two; 1, 3 & 5 in row three).

With your planting now completed all you need do is weed until the squashes have covered the ground and water as required, harvesting the crops as they are ready.


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Climbing French Bean Seed 'Blue Lake'

Image of  Climbing French Bean Blue Lake

A stringless variety of this popular bean. Gorgeously sweet flavour either raw or cooked, and well suited for freezing or drying. Can be dried and used as a haricot.
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Supplied as a packet of approximately 115 seeds.

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Climbing French Bean Seed 'Fasold'

Image of  Climbing French Bean Fasold

A black seeded variety that produces heavy crops of pencil thickness beans with good flavour and very good freezing qualities.
Available Now
Supplied as a packet of approximately 75 seeds.

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Runner Bean Seed 'Polestar'

Image of Runner Bean Polestar

A heavy cropping variety that produces bright green fleshy pods that are completely stringless. Early cropping.
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Supplied as a packet of approximately 30 seeds.

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Squash Seed 'Acorn Table Gold'

sq squash acorn table gold 003

Winter Squash. Golden coloured fruits have a rich golden flesh with a sweet and nutty flesh. High yielding and very reliable. F1 Hybrid.
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Supplied as a packet of 5 seeds.

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Squash Seed 'Crown Prince'

Image of Squash Crown Prince

Winter Squash. The best storing variety of squash we know - and probably the best flavoured too. Grey-blue skinned fruits have rich orange flesh.
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Supplied as a packet of 5 seeds.

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Squash Seed 'Harlequin'

sq squash harlequin 002

Winter Squash. A highly attractive green, gold and yellow striped acorn / dumpling squash. Exceptionally sweet flesh. F1 Hybrid.
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Supplied as a packet of 5 seeds.

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Squash Seed 'Hunter'

Image of Squash Butternut Pilgrim

Winter Squash. Pale cream skinned fruits have rich golden orange flesh which is exceptionally sweet. Specifically bred for the UK climate.
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Supplied as a packet of 5 seeds.

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Squash Seed 'Kabocha'

sq squash kabocha 002

Winter Squash. Also known as Japanese Pumpkins. Rich orange flesh is protected by a thick dark green striped pale green skin. Exceptionally good keeping qualities. F1 Hybrid.
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Supplied as a packet of 5 seeds.

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Squash Seed 'Peter Pan'

sq squash peter pan 003

Summer Squash. Pale green flattened fruits have scalloped edges. Delicious raw or cooked - but best harvested when small. F1 Hybrid.
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Supplied as a packet of 5 seeds.

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Squash Seed 'Rolet'

Image of Squash Rolet

Summer Squash / Gem Squash. Early maturing South African variety. Cricket ball sized dark green (almost black) skinned fruits. Sweet orange flesh.
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Supplied as a packet of 5 seeds.

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Squash Seed 'Scallop Yellow Bird'

Image of  Squash Scallop Yellow Bird

Summer Squash. Pretty little bright yellow Patty Pan squashes are produced in abundance on compact bushy plants. F1 Hybrid.
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Supplied as a packet of 5 seeds.

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Squash Seed 'Spaghetti'

Image of Squash Vegetable Spaghetti

Winter Squash. Fantastic in every way! The plump rugby ball shaped fruits mature to a pale yellow orange. Flesh resembles spaghetti when cooked.
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Supplied as a packet of 5 seeds.

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Squash Seed 'Turks Turban'

Image of Squash Turks Turban

Winter Squash. A fruit hard to mistake! Orange pumpkin shape fruits and inner multi-coloured protuberance from the base. Sweet with excellent keeping qualities.
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Supplied as a packet of 5 seeds.

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Sweetcorn Seed 'Britpop'

Image of  Sweetcorn Britpop Popcorn

Popping Corn. The first white popping corn variety bred by an English breeder. Slender cobs of pale yellow corn that can be dried and popped.
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Supplied as a packet of approximately 40 seeds.

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Sweetcorn Seed 'Lark'

Image of Sweetcorn Swift Early

Mid-seasoned tendersweet variety. Produces medium-sized well filled cobs of thin skinned kernels. Tolerates cooler growing conditions well. F1 Hybrid.
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Supplied as a packet of approximately 40 seeds.

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Sweetcorn Seed Minipop

Image of Sweetcorn Babycorn Minipop

Babycorn. Four or five pale yellow babycorns are produced on each plant. Vigorous in habit and easy to grow with no pollination concerns. F1 Hybrid.
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Supplied as a packet of approximately 30 seeds.

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Sweetcorn Seed 'Seville'

Image of  Sweetcorn Seville

Bred to withstand and perform well in colder temperatures. Produces large cobs of golden yellow kernels that are juicy and sweet. Perfect for Northern gardeners.
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Supplied as a packet of approximately 40 seeds.

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Climbing French Bean Plant 'Blue Lake'

Image of  Climbing French Bean Blue Lake

A most delicious and reliable French Bean that defies any Summer drought and remain sugar sweet and tender. Easy to grow and very long cropping.
SOLD OUT UNTIL APRIL 2015
Supplied as compost block grown plants.

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Climbing French Bean Plant 'Fasold'

Image of  Climbing French Bean Fasold

A black seeded Climbing French Bean with excellent flavour and continuity of cropping performance. Can be dried and used as a haricot bean.
SOLD OUT UNTIL APRIL 2015
Supplied as compost block grown plants.

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Sweetcorn Plant 'Lark'

Image of Sweetcorn Swift Early

Produces medium sized golden yellow cobs with sweet, juicy thin skinned kernels. Good tolerance to cooler growing conditions. F1 Hybrid.
SOLD OUT UNTIL APRIL 2015
Supplied as compost block grown plants.

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Sweetcorn Plant Minipop

Image of Sweetcorn Babycorn Minipop

Pale yellow, sweet and crunchy babycorn cobs. Easy to grow (no cross pollinating required as for other sweetcorn varieties). Vigorous and very reliable habit.
SOLD OUT UNTIL APRIL 2015
Supplied as compost block grown plants.

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Sweetcorn Plant 'Seville'

Image of  Sweetcorn Seville

A sweet, reliable and heavy cropper of sweetcorn that produces large cobs even in colder climates. F1 Hybrid. An excellent variety.
SOLD OUT UNTIL APRIL 2015
Supplied as compost block grown plants.

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Sweetcorn Plant 'Strawberry Popcorn'

Image of Sweetcorn Strawberry Popcorn

Home grown popcorn, what could be better? Ruby-red round cobs that look a little like large Strawberries! The dried kernels make excellent quality sweet popcorn.
SOLD OUT UNTIL APRIL 2015
Supplied as compost block grown plants.

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Sweetcorn Seed 'Strawberry Popcorn'

Image of Sweetcorn Strawberry Popcorn

Popping Corn. Ruby-red rounded cobs are produced in abundance. Once dried, the kernels are simply the best variety for popping!
Available from approximately October 2014
Supplied as a packet of approximately 40 seeds.

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Image of  Climbing French Bean Blue Lake

Climbing French Bean Seed 'Blue Lake'


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Image of  Climbing French Bean Fasold

Climbing French Bean Seed 'Fasold'


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Runner Bean Seed 'Polestar'


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sq squash acorn table gold 003

Squash Seed 'Acorn Table Gold'


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Squash Seed 'Crown Prince'


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sq squash harlequin 002

Squash Seed 'Harlequin'


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Squash Seed 'Hunter'


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Squash Seed 'Kabocha'


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Squash Seed 'Peter Pan'


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Squash Seed 'Rolet'


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Image of  Squash Scallop Yellow Bird

Squash Seed 'Scallop Yellow Bird'


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Squash Seed 'Spaghetti'


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Squash Seed 'Turks Turban'


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Image of  Sweetcorn Britpop Popcorn

Sweetcorn Seed 'Britpop'


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Sweetcorn Seed 'Lark'


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Sweetcorn Seed Minipop


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Sweetcorn Seed 'Seville'


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Image of  Climbing French Bean Blue Lake

Climbing French Bean Plant 'Blue Lake'


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Climbing French Bean Plant 'Fasold'


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Sweetcorn Plant 'Lark'


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Sweetcorn Plant Minipop


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Sweetcorn Plant 'Seville'


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Sweetcorn Plant 'Strawberry Popcorn'


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Sweetcorn Seed 'Strawberry Popcorn'