Companion planting is an age-old practice of planting herbs and veggies together to naturally repel pests, attract pollinators or improve fertility. A form of companion planting practised by the Native Americans is called ‘The Three Sisters’, in which sweet corn, pumpkin (or butternut) and runner beans are grown together. Besides making sense from a companion planting perspective, it is a great space saver for small gardens.
The sweet corn provides shade and support for the squash and beans and the beans supply nitrogen for the corn. All three veggies require plenty of water. For really limited space, it may be better to grow bushy squash (courgettes/patty pans or gem squash) rather than trailing squash.
Good to know: Don’t sow everything at the same time. First sow the sweetcorn in situ. When it is about 30cm high, sow the beans and when they are about 30cm high sow the squash or pumpkin. The beans and squash grow faster than the corn and will overgrow and kill it if everything is planted at the same time.
- Sweet corn Golden Bantam is an heirloom variety from Kirchhoffs that has been the gardener’s favourite since early in the twentieth century. The tall growing plants produce multiple 14-16cm cobs filled with sweet yellow kernels. Plant in full sun, close together in blocks (not as a single row) for wind protection and to aid pollination.
- Runner bean ‘Emergo’ is a strong grower and very productive with long, dark green pods that taste best when picked young and tender. The first pods are ready for harvest within 50 days. It will produce beans throughout summer as long as the beans are picked often.
- Kirchhoffs heirloom Butternut has rich orange coloured flesh and is ideal for baking. Keep plants well-watered, especially when flowering, and water around the base of the plant, to prevent wetting the leaves.
Veggies to sow now.
Summer rainfall regions
Bush/runner beans, beetroot, brinjals, cabbage, carrot, capsicums, cucumbers, celery, lettuce, melons, marrows, mealies, melon, parsnip, peas (in cooler areas), pumpkins, radish, rhubarb, spinach and Swiss chard, squash, turnips, tomatoes
Lowveld and KwaZulu Natal coast
Asparagus, bush/runner beans, brinjals, capsicums, cucumbers, mealies, and radishes
Winter rainfall regions
Bush/runner beans, beetroot, brinjals, carrot, capsicums, cucumbers, celery, lettuce, melons, mealies, parsnip, pumpkins, radish, rhubarb, Swiss chard, squash, turnips, tomatoes.