We love companion planting for its practical benefits — pest control, improved pollination, maximizing use of space. And we also appreciate the approach because of its connection to our mission of ending intimate partner abuse.

Although many tried and true companion combinations exist, the “Three Sisters” of corn, beans, and squash are well known. Grown and eaten together for centuries by Native Americans, each of the sisters contributes something unique to the growing process.

This article from the Farmer’s Almanac explains how the corn offers support, beans bring nitrogen, and the squash leaves shade the soil. The Three Sisters tradition is beautiful metaphor for surviving intimate partner abuse. A purposefully chosen circle of friends, family, and advocates encourages safety, healing, and growth.

Sometimes, in life and farming, it takes some testing and disappointment to establish this healthy circle of support. After frustrating results from our companion planting last year, we gave it another try this year.  Informed by valuable lessons learned, our bed of popcorn, pole beans, and sweet potatoes is thriving!

We opted for tilling the bed this year, as opposed to our no-till approach last year. The sweet potato slips were planted first.  Next, we transplanted our corn instead of direct seeding. We saw a huge improvement with this approach and will continue the process in the future. A couple of weeks later, after the popcorn had some time to settle, we planted pole beans next to the popcorn.

We’ve done one good weeding in this bed so far and are excited to reap the harvest later this fall. So, which companion plantings have you found to be most successful in your gardens? And which sister are you in your personal circles of support — strength, energy, or shade?