growing beans up corn stalks

sarahs_garden(7a)February 17, 2004

Hi, I saw an animated picture of this technique on one of these forums, and I wanted to try it to save space. But before I do, I wanted to make sure people actually DO it, and that what I saw wasn't just a 'cutesy cartoon'...

So does anyone know about it? I want to grow some Kentucky blue pole beans up some Sun and Stars corn. Will this work??

This is my first year with a veggie garden, so any advice would be greatly appreciated. I really love this forum, b/c it gives such great ideas about saving space :)


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dnelmo(z7 OK)

I am almost certain that Native Americans would plant beans, corn and squash together in the manner you describe. I recently read an article about this method in, I believe, Mother Earth News. This evening I will try and find the article and post more information about the method.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2004 at 10:25AM
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Thank you so much! I'll be looking for your post, I really want to try doing this because it will save me so much space!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2004 at 11:10AM
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mowarren(z6 sw mo)

it works but makes it so you have to search to find the beans. also some of the stalks bent under weight of the beans so may want to tie tops of the corn to a top string to hold the weight.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2004 at 3:44PM
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dnelmo(z7 OK)


I found the article that I referenced in my earlier post. It was not Mother Earth News. It was in Back Home Magazine (May/June 2003 # 64). They have a web site and you may be able to read the article online. I don't know that I would recommend buying that issue just for this article though. The author did what you are asking about except that he unintentionally planted bush beans rather than pole beans. The combination of beans and corn should work rather well as the bean pull nitrogen into the soil while the corn uses the nitrogen. You may want to innoculate your bean seeds before you plant. If you can't find the article online, I would be willing to send you my issue.


Here is a link that might be useful: Back Home Magazine

    Bookmark   February 18, 2004 at 6:33PM
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I come from Venezuela and they do it that way there, they also bend the corn stalk in the middle after the ears are filled to try to keep humidity and bugs out of the husk
what I don't remember is the timing for the planting.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2004 at 4:07AM
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Ben_gardening(z4 MN)

I did several plantings of the "three sisters" of corn beans and squash when I lived in Texas. I usually planted the corn in early march then waited three weeks till the corn was 2-3" tall to plant the beans and then waited 2 more weeks to plant the squash. The corn gets a headstart, and the squash get shaded and slowed down a little, but makes up for it at the end of the season.
I would pant 5 rows in a 5'x20' bed with 2 seeds every 6 inches. I would leave 3 small gaps in the center row where the squash would go and plant beans only around the outside corn plants. I know its not square foot gardening, but I just can't seem to get good corn if it isn't in rows. I've tried every spacing imaginable, but corn just seems to do better for me in rows.
Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2004 at 8:43AM
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Anarie(z8b Tx)

It does work! I did it last fall. I planted too late to get corn before frost, but the beans were great. The only thing is that the descriptions usually talk about hills, but the corn does better in blocks. You have to have a fairly dense planting to get pollination. Really, you can just plant corn the way you would plant it if that's all you were planting, then add the beans and finally the squash.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2004 at 1:16AM
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Cain(z7 AR)

I've never grown squash. Does it vine or grow on the ground?

    Bookmark   March 2, 2004 at 11:42AM
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Ben_gardening(z4 MN)

To answer Cain's question: Yes.

To expain it: squash vines along the ground, sometimes accidentally going partway up a corn stalk, but mostly just spreading out.


    Bookmark   March 3, 2004 at 7:57AM
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micropropagator(zone5 S Indiana)

My ancestors, Catherine and David Eddleman, arrived in KY in 1778 and two years later Indians under English officers out of Detroit killed most of them. (see URL below)

We came to Indiana in Jan 1811, but in the 1940s we still grew The Sisters in our cornfield. We mixed the pumpkin seeds with the fertilzer in the corn planter. We planted the pole beans a few weeks later beside the cornstalks. We also grew pole beans on sweet corn in the garden, but sweet corn is weaker and shorter and therefore tends to fall down after the ears are harvested as corn-on-cob.

I have been a corn geneticist for 57 years. During 2003 I had good luck growing a derivative of Bloody Butcher field corn in double rows (row spacing 6 inches; plant spacing within rows was 12-inch, staggered). My goal was to shade tomatotes from sunburn and grow dry corn for whole grain cornmeal (it tastes better than germless commercial cornmeal. The corn was 10 feet tall but failed to shade the tomatoes enough. Therefore, in 2004, I plan to grow an heirloom KY Cornfield Bean on the Bloody Butcher Corn. Since I leave the ears on the Bloody Butcher corn until after killed by frost and dried by the winds and sun of Indian Summer, the vining beans will have good support and if I miss any, this cultivar makes good dry beans. The bean was brought by a KY mountain family to Indiana in 1940s and they still grow it 500 feet from my garden.

Squash Vine Borer killed all 100 of the pumpkin plants I grew a few years ago. I suspect one reason we had no problems with vine borer in our pumpkins of 1940s was that the corn plants some how hid the pumpkins from the moth. During 2004, I plan a 30 x 30 'Bloody Butcher' patch with my pumpkins and squashes hidden inside. Perhaps the cornfield beans will also help protect the pumpkins from the moth.

Here is a link that might be useful: Genealogy of Harold Lee Eddleman

    Bookmark   March 4, 2004 at 2:00AM
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opabinia51(SW Canada)

Yes, the method does work. The Hopi Native Americans grew corn this way. As other's have said, let your corn get established first. Then, plant the Beans about an inch away from the corn plants. One bean per plant or the beans will overwhelm your corn.
Both Beans and Squash are companion plants to corn (they feed the corn and repel bad insects). Also, melons can be grown around corn and Cucumbers. But, if your soil is really poor, just try the beans at first.
And it is best not to plant your corn in the same place each year as it is a heavy feeder and will suck up all the nutrients from the soil in a given area.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 8:53PM
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