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I planted a section of my garden three-sisters style this year: corn, squash/pumpkin, and pole beans (for dry harvest).

I also have a 25' row of "Mammoth Gray Stripe" sunflowers (9-12 footers) in the back of the garden where I've planted beans among the sunflowers. I had to saw down a similar variety of sunflower last fall, so I'm pretty sure these are going to be sturdy enough to carry a heavy load.

I started the corn and sunflowers first, thinking that they'd get a head start before the beans start to climb.

My question is:

What's the right ratio of beans to corn/sunflower? I.e. how many vines is each plant capable of supporting?

  • I had to look up "pole beans", and it turns out this just refers to the habit. So it can refer to pinto beans, green beans, etc. So I suspect the number will vary according to the kind of bean, and the variety of corn. – winwaed Jun 15 '11 at 19:21
  • I had some "Mammoth" sunflowers last year. Breaking up sunflower stalks with a saw does feel strange. – winwaed Jun 15 '11 at 19:22
  • @winwaed - Yes, pole beans vs bush beans -- doesn't make any sense to plant bush beans next to corn, what's the point :) I've got "black turtle" and "rattlesnake". The black turtle last year didn't take to the trellis I put up and ended up sprawled all over, so I don't have a good idea for how hard they're going to yank on the corn. Guess I'll know in a couple of months... – bstpierre Jun 15 '11 at 19:29
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Yummm...black turtle beans. I'd suggest only 1 to 2 bean plants per sunflower so they don't block out too much sun, and since sweetcorn plants have shallow roots, only 1 bean plant per corn, particularly if you get windy weather in the summer. I remember my parents' sweetcorn crop in SE Pennsylvania - with no beans adding weight to the corn - suffering damage from windy summer storms on an annual basis. You also don't want to hamper the pollination of your corn crop too much.

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  • How long do you need to wait after planting the corn to plant the beans? – Om Patange Dec 5 '11 at 1:26

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