Role of Teacher
Companion Planting Cards
- Companion planting is the practice of close planting different plants that enhance each other’s growth or protect each other from pests.
- The three sisters (corn, pole beans, and squash) is an example of a legendary companion planting. The corn offers the beans needed support to grow high. The beans pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil for the benefit of all three crops. As the beans grow through the tangle of squash vines and wind their way up the cornstalks into the sunlight, they hold the sisters close together. The large leaves of the sprawling squash protect the threesome by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeping it cool and moist and preventing weeds.
- Nutritionally, corn, beans, and squash complement each other. Corn provides carbohydrates, beans offer protein, fiber, vitamin A and C, and squash offers an array of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A and B6. By eating these three components together, we offer our body a complete protein.
- Many different variations of fruits and vegetables grow well together by providing protection, nutrients, and or complimentary tastes to each other throughout their life cycles or when cooked.
Topics / Goals / Learning Objectives
- To understand the practice of companion planting.
- To explore successful companion planting variations.
Welcome to the garden! Today, we will be exploring one of the longest traditions in growing food by looking at the Three Sisters plants. Does anybody know what the Three Sisters are? Beans, corn, and squash make up this partnership, and Native Americans have been planting these three crops together for centuries. Why do you think farmers might plant certain crops together? Yes, some plants, when planted close to each other, can actually enhance the growth of each other or repel certain pests. This is called companion planting, and the Three Sisters offer a perfect example of this. Corn grows high and provides the support for beans. Beans have bacteria living on their roots that help them absorb nitrogen from the air and convert it to a form that plants need in order to grow. The large, prickly squash leaves shade the soil, preventing weed growth, and deter animal pests. Beyond helping each other grow, the Three Sisters make up a complete protein, which means that by eating all of these ingredients, we offer our body all the nutrients it needs.
Today, we are going to play a game that will help us explore more companion plants so we can better understand what might grow best with each other in our garden this season. Then, we can use our newfound companion plants to help us plan our garden.
Procedures / Activities
Prep: Create the vegetable, herb, and fruit cards.
- Welcome students to the garden!
- Introduce lesson with the history of the Three Sisters and their significance in the Opening (above).
- Pass out the cards to each student and explain the rules of the game. Everyone needs to get into a group with their companion plants. On the back of each card are the plants that your plant likes and dislikes. Use your cards to help you pair with other plants you like, and to stay away from plants you dislike. Try to make groups with plants that only like each other and there is no plant in the group that is disliked by another plant in that same group.
- After all the students have found a group, have each group identify their plants to the whole class, and discuss why those plants belong in the same group. Brainstorm whether they appear in popular dishes together. Do some provide shade for others? Do some provide insect repellent properties?
- After the students have made their guesses, explain why each group are companions.
- Go over all of the plants you’ll be planting in your garden, and see if the class can make companion groups.
Extensions / Adaptations / Games
- Take the students to the garden to see what companion plants are already growing together.