Experiment akin to 3 sisters; tomato, sunflower and cucumber

randompeteMay 12, 2009


I'm very interested in the benefits of companion planting, and in particular the Three Sisters technique (which I'm trying this year) for the structural and space-saving benefits it provides.

I researched far and wide for any other methods that might have similarly manyfold benefits, but couldn't find anything else comparable.

However from my research I discovered something rather interesting. This in particular is taken from the list on Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companion_plants ). I have seen other lists that directly contradict this information. But much of the data on companion planting seems to be based on hearsay and sensitive crystallization (!) rather than any rigorous scientific theory or experiment. So I am really looking for anyone who might have any past experience of how these plants fare together!

According to Wikipedia; sunflowers help tomatoes, and cucumbers are helped by sunflowers (why these two items aren't inversely listed I don't know!) Also according to a long list of companions linked from another thread here, cucumber is a companion of both sunflower and tomato. I've seen other links between the two, although I've seen at least one list that described a negative relation between two of them (don't have the link right now).

What I've planted is: two rows of sunflowers with a wide gap in the middle, in which I've spaced out a number of tomato plants, and dotted cucumbers around.

The benefits I'm hoping for are:

- Sunflowers provide both support and cover for the tomatoes (I've arranged them as a kind of cage)

- Cucumbers provide ground cover

- Inherent companion planting benefits (whatever these might be!)

So, am I doing something really daft? Am I the first person to try this method?

Assuming this works out, and nobody has thought of it before, I'm inclined to name the technique "Children of Jah" since a friend pointed out that red, gold and green are popularly the colours of Rastafarism.

Any insights appreciated! :)


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If you don't have this already, go to a book store and get "Carrots Love Tomatoes". I've been companion planting sence 1998 with great success. I'm not claiming to be an expert but over the years I've discovered what works for me. Companion planting is what we (humans) did before chemicals and USDA.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 11:49AM
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novice_2009(zone 6b)

Very cool pete. I'm not too sure about those lists on companion planting either. Some seem like contradictions, as I've read to keep cucumbers away from tomatoes because they share a common pest. So I don't know what to do! I'd much rather hear it from a gardener who tried companion planting, what they used, did it work, etc. However, ask and you are told to get a book or google. Let me know how your version of three sisters turns out!!!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 3:36PM
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Awesome!!! Please post updates

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 4:06PM
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Hi Pete,

I have been companion planting for a lot of years. When I find something that works I use it the next year to see if I get the same results.

I need to get better at keeping notes on this stuff. I always think that I'll write it down later and later never comes and then I forget the next year what the results were.

There is another 3-sister companion. It is corn, squash, and pole beans. The Indians used to use this method.

I do have the book : "Carrots Love Tomatoes". It is one book that has been read from cover to cover many times. I love it. I do have others but this book puts it in simple terms.

Happy Gardening and keep the reports coming in.

Also, the best ever was green peppers and okra.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2009 at 8:18PM
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an old post i know, but...

a little known fact is the sunflower is actually the fourth sister. she got left out of the will for some reason.

my theory is one of the main purposes for 3 sisters is food storage if you will. squash and corn all keep very easily through cold months, and it makes sense then for the sunflower to also be included.

i did grow sunflowers with corn last year, but reasoning was purely aesthetic, and thats how i convinced the wife to let me dig up another section of lawn for corn. they did well together.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2012 at 10:42AM
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Well, i planted last year cucumbers and sunflower and did not find this combination working. Looked like cucumbers did not like this.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 5:49PM
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I have done a three sisters like combination of okra, Southern peas and cucumbers this year.

They all seem to be doing well and liking it about as much as my corn, beans and squash like the original, but I don't think I will do it again. I grew cowpeas this year just to see if this would work, but they are so cheap to buy outright that they really aren't worth gardening for afaic.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2012 at 2:09AM
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