My Sisters (A Bit Corny)

High as an elephant's eye?
This season marked the first time I've ever tried growing corn.  With a wet, cool and muddy spring, I chose to hold off on planting until well into June, so I wasn't sure how successful I'd be. That said, like most of my gardening endeavours, for me it's more the experience of trying than the success of the harvest that matters most. With that in mind, my husband and I dug a 10' x 10' bed and plunked seeds into the soil.

More turf bites the dust - this yard's for growin!

Within two weeks of planting, corn was looking like corn. Sweet!
 Reading about how other people grow things inspires and empowers me.  This past winter and spring, I was really interested in learning more about companion planting, and I came across many mentions of the 'Three Sisters', a method of growing long used by the native Americans.  Corn, squash and beans grow symbiotically together, so that's what I decided to do. I interplanted corn with my 'Costata Romanesco' zucchini and golden hubbard squash, the theory being that the rough, spiky stems and leaves of the squash plants deter hungry critters like raccoons and squirrels from climbing or knocking over the corn stalks.
My 'Three Sisters' garden begins to take shape in July, as viewed from the deck.
Zucchini growing happily in the shade of the corn.
In the next phase of planting, pole beans are sown amid the corn.  Beans fix nitrogen from the air into the soil, supplying the hungry, rapidly-growing corn with nutrition.  In exchange, the corn provides structure for the beans to climb upon.  It's a pretty good arrangement!

The ornamental qualities of the corn at all stages of growth was a pleasant surprise. She's a looker!
 So, the big question... did it work?  Well, yes and no.  Nothing is perfect, as I'm always reminded by my garden.  The zucchini produced beautifully throughout late July, but then suffered in the heat and humidity, afflicted with terrible powdery mildew and all but halting flowering and fruiting.  The corn is still growing, and has in fact produced cobs.  
The first cobs of corn begin to form in late July - success?
 Success! (I think.) I'm unsure of when to pick them, as they're quite small, and I'm not confident they'll fully ripen.  The beans were planted very late, but are climbing happily and beginning to form flowers.  I think I'll get some before summers' end, which is approaching much more quickly than I'd prefer!  Overall, I'm proud of my Three Sisters experiment, and I'm looking forward to modifying and repeating the process next season.  Homegrown corn may not be in my kitchen as of yet this summer, but thankfully, there's plenty of local gold to enjoy, courtesy of Ontario farmers much more talented than I!


  1. Wow, you've done a great job with your garden. This is very inspiring as I haven't tried corn. Next year will be our year to add a new, larger space in our garden.

  2. you harvest when the silks turn dark

  3. When I was growing in Niagara powdery mildew was the bane of my existance. I'd usually get lots of summer squash and cucumbers until it hit so that wasn't too bad, but watermelons never made it to full development. I am hoping that now I am in London I will have better luck...maybe?