“The Three Sisters” (Corn, Bean & Pumpkin) – Companion Planting Guild.

“The Three Sisters” (Corn, Bean & Pumpkin) – Companion Planting Guild.

Over thousands of years, peoples of South America traded & shared this guild along river valleys, until it merged with peoples in North America.  Producing large amounts of surplus, populations were not only sustained – but thrived & grew to what they are today (5).

  • Corn.
  • Climbing beans.
  • Squash or pumpkin.


  1. Plant 5 CORN PLANTS in the middle.
  2. Plant 7 CLIMBING BEAN SEEDS around these.
  3. Plant 5 SQUASH (OR PUMPKIN) SEEDS furthest out.

Guild additions for ‘The Three Sisters’:

  • Sunflowers.
  • Chilli.
  • Potatoe.


Planting in a pit will help rainwater pool & sink into the plant roots.  And using a boomerang-shaped berm will channel rainwater overflow to the next planting site.  In this way, we maximize the use of rainwater & it’s runoff on slope…



Layered mulch (or lasagne gardening) creates organic soil as the garden grows…


Order of placement (ground-layer first):

  1. Egg cartons  = barrier between grass & garden.
  2. Lucerne hay = adds nitrogen.
  3. Soil.
  4. Local forest mulch = adds carbon (leaf litter) & local beneficial fungi.
  5. Perlite = maximizes growth by reflecting sunlight to the underside of the leaf.


  1. Choose garden bed locations – roll a ball downhill to ensure rainwater runoff capture.
  2. Dig a pit & use the soil to create a boomerang-shaped berm.
  3. Lay the garden bed:
    1. Egg cartons.
    1. Hay.
    1. Forest mulch.
    1. Perlite.
  4. Plant the guild:
    1. Corn plants.
    1. Bean seeds.
    1. Pumpkin seeds.
  5. Water-in:
    1. The berm.
    1. The garden bed.


Permaculture Principle =  “Obtain a yield”…eat it too! 

  • Golden cornbread.
  • Bean salad.
  • Bean cakes.
  • Black bean chilli.
  • Squash casserole.
  • Grilled corn.
  • Squash & bean minestrone.
  • Spiced creamed corn.
  • Kale salad with squash & almonds.
  • Corn & zucchini salad.
  • Beans, chard & basil.
  • Squash tart with fried sage.
  • Charred & raw corn with chilli.
  • Beans with benne & sorghum.
  • Pickled corn.
  • Garlicky beans.
  • Pumpkin soup.
  • Beans & salumi vinaigrette.
  • Corn pudding.
  • Bean tempura.
  • Pumpkin & cashew curry.

Sources: (11) & (12).


  • Seed, J., Macy, J., Fleming, P. and Naess, A., 1988. Thinking Like a Mountain: Towards a Council of All Beings.  New Society Publishers:  Vermont.
  • Lancaster, B. and Lipkis, A., 2010. Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2: Water-Harvesting Earthworks (Vol. 2). Rainsource Press.
  • Kimmerer, R.W., 2013. Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants. Milkweed Editions.

With special thanks to

‘The Health Retreat’

(Kiels Mountain, QLD).

About The Author

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About The Author

Chrissy-Tiina Laurikainen

In person + online permaculture teacher. Online permaculture consultant. Upkeep of a 30 acre rural property (using permaculture & other agroecological techniques). A communal research laboratory focusing on free innovation in the works. Doing what I can to support LIFE on planet Earth!!

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