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Container Planting Corn and Beans

Posted by on April 21, 2016

Growing corn can be an iffy thing in Alaska. Too often, the summers just don’t get warm enough. But this year we have hope. Last summer reached well into the 80’s (unusual for here!) and there’s a chance this summer will be warm too. So in hope, we’ve planted a short season sweet corn. To give it even more of a boost, we’re container planting corn and beans, and keeping the Three Sisters Method of planting in mind.


Container Planting Corn and Beans - IdlewildAlaska Put the three sisters method to work for you (even if you only use part of it.)

The three sisters method of planting is an old method. The Native Americans used this method hundreds of years before the European settlers arrived. They planted the corn, soon followed by climbing beans, and then surrounded by squash plants. The corn grew tall and gave the beans support to grow. The squash became a natural mulch, keeping the weeds down, holding in moisture, and the prickly leaves helped to keep predators at bay. This well established companion planting still works today.

Container Planting Corn and Beans

When container planting corn, the container needs to be at least 12″ deep. Corn is typically planted anywhere from 8″ to 24″ apart, giving it plenty of room to grow. I aimed for the 8″ when planting it in my containers, the larger with four corn starts and the smaller with three. Supposedly its hard to over water corn, but my containers have good drainage and I’ll still keep an eye on it. Growing the corn in containers will also help keep the soil warmer than our cool Alaskan ground is normally. We’re growing organic Golden Bantam Sweet Corn. “Midget” variety corn is usually best for container planting.


Corn is a very heavy feeder, taking a lot of nutrients from the soil. This could potentially be a problem when growing in containers; lots of fertilizer may been needed. This is where the three sisters method comes in handy.

Growing Corn in Alaska -

We’re also trying out Scarlet Runner Beans along with the corn. Scarlet Runner is unusual in that it likes cooler temperatures. Plus its pretty. Beans are a natural soil fixer. They take nitrogen from the air and return it to the soil. So the corn provides a natural trellis for the beans, and the beans in return fertilize the corn. The Native Americans also often fertilized with fish, and I’ll do the same, recycling the leftovers of our yearly salmon catch (read my full article HERE).




I started our corn seeds in a seed flat (Do this five to six weeks before the average last frost date for your area). Once the corn was about 5″ tall, I transplanted it into the containers. At this point, I planted a couple beans on either side of each stalk. If I were to grow the squash with the corn and beans, I would plant the squash seeds with it about a week after the beans. I won’t be adding squash to my containers. There isn’t quite enough room. I’ll plant my squash directly into the garden using the Back to Eden gardening method. Read more about Back to Eden HERE.

Back to Eden DVD - IdlewildAlaska

I will be putting the containers outdoors and not in the greenhouse (unless its an unusually cold summer), after hardening them off. Corn needs to receive lots of direct sunlight and be protected from the wind. I’m planning on placing my containers near our garden fence in a corner (still inside the fence to protect it from the moose). If it gets too windy or it looks like the corn needs a bit more warmth, I’ll hang plastic on the fencing to create a greenhouse of sorts. Be sure to keep your containers fairly close together. Corn needs each other to pollinate. This can happen if you have only four stalks of corn together, but closer to a dozen will help ensure better pollination. Gently shaking the stalks once the corn has tasseled helps pollinate too. Read more on growing corn HERE.

I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes throughout the summer! Be sure to “like” the Facebook page and follow us on Instagram to stay up to date with pics!


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7 Responses to Container Planting Corn and Beans

  1. Linda

    I’m excited to see how your corn experiment goes! I wanted to comment about the scarlet runner beans… I’m not sure if they are the same as I grow here in my cooler ( but not cold lol ) climate Australian garden…but they are a plant that keeps coming up every year! Apparently they form a growth underground to shoot from each year if left undisturbed. I’ve never grown them in pots before, but my ground planted beans do this, they got crazy tall too. Pretty flowers and lovely beans if you pick them when small 🙂

  2. Mary Anne's Alaska

    I’m curious to see how this turns out, too! I have see corn grow here but rarely. And scarlet runner beans can do well, and yes, they’re so pretty!! How wide are those containers?

  3. Gwen

    This was really interesting for me, as here in northern Scotland there are a lot of things which are harder to grow. We do have a polytunnel though, so some heat loving plants do well in there. My heart sank when I saw what you said about wind, though, as it is very windy on the island where we live! Oh well, I can try!

    • IdlewildAlaska

      We’ve had winds of 130 mph in our area, so I hear you on winds! That’s why I’m going to put the containers near the fence, so I will be able to hang plastic around it if necessary.

  4. JES

    Great idea! I can’t imagine moose in our area but our birds are the trouble over here! 🙂 Thank you for linking this week at the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth!

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