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I square foot garden, which is a whole other sad topic that I thought I beaten when I moved my corn and squash (along with pole beans) to the south side of my yard against my house.

True, the plants are 2-3 x's bigger than the past two years that I attempted them in my raised beds, but my yields are still low. I've had a neighbor and a few friends exclaim their jealousy of how much is growing, I'm embarrassed to say that really, I don't think they're doing that great.

I have 2 groups of corn, one with 5 rows the other with 6. The rows are 4ft long with pole beans in the middle of each sq ft. In between the two sections of corn are 2 acorn squash, 1 sugar pie pumpkin and 1 volunteer melon of some kind. The pumpkin plant is HUGE with tons of male flowers but I've never seen the female flowers open and the fruit shrivels up and falls off. The two squash plants are huge with gorgeous big leaves and ONE slightly-larger-than-a-softball squash growing on each. These also have the same flower thing as the pumpkin. Out of my 11 rows of corn I have THREE ears growing and all the plants have tassels out. Do they really grow after the tassels have extended out?!? How would they get fertilized? And out of about 18 pole beans (of two varieties) I have ONE plant that I can see with flowers on it and that plant has TWO pods growing.

Is anyone else having problems like this? Or with the SFG method (as I also have problems in my 96 sq ft of raised beds)? Is there a time of day that I should be looking for the best opportunity to hand pollinate? Is there anything I can do about the corn?

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I've never understood how non-leaf crops can really yield out on SFG spacing. I know it works for some, but the spacing guidelines have always seemed impossibly small to me. Cramped plants, with a few exceptions, just do not yield to their full potential. I do push spacing on beans tight and trellis up - they seem to take it well. I wish I could offer something constructive on the corn, but I don't grow it myself. I'm not quite sure how much room you are giving the squashes, but if it helps to have a comparison, I have 4 vining-type winter squashes in the corners of a 16 sq ft bed and feel I am pushing spacing close at that; I have 4 bush delicatas in 24 sq ft. and that seems perfect. Good luck!

The worst year of gardening yields for me was the year I tried SFG. It was horrendous. Out of 6 tomato plants we got 5 tomatoes. Seriously, 5 tomatoes.


I've also tried the 3 sisters (beans, squash and corn) with little luck. Squash and corn are extremely heavy feeders so you really have to fertilize them a lot when growing them so close to each other. Now I just plant them in adjacent plots giving them each plenty of space.


Usually the corn will send up it's flowers before the tassels show up so just be patient. In the meantime fertilize everything really well.

Hi Alica:  I've been sfg for about 20 years with out too many problems and very good success.  I gave up on corn, though, because it takes up too much space, even with the 3 sisters method.  I think that part of your problem may be a serious lack of bees or other polinators.  I have had to hand polinate in the past, and find that late morning or early afternoon works the best.  I use a small paint brush. Try to see when your bees are most active and use that as a guideline to self polinate.

Some of the secret to using the SFG method is planting companion plants in the available spaces between the larger plants and using different harvesting times.  For example, I plant lettuce, spinach and radished in the areas between my tomatoes and peppers because the lettuce can be harvested first, long before the tomatoes or peppers grow big enough to take over that space.  The sf method really does work with a little advanced planning.  Don't give up hope!


I've looked up a few articles about hand pollinating. The learning just never ends - I hope they're helpful!

Hand pollinating cucumbers and squash

Hand pollinating corn

Hand pollinating tomatoes and peppers (simply shake or flick the blossoms!)



Hey Alicia,

A lot of  people all over the country are having problems this year.  One issue is the heat, another is the drought (depending on where you live.)  There are a couple of things that might help you. 

I do a lot of gardening in raised beds and pots, and the one thing that I've found that helps is to keep putting compost on them.  Just sidedress the plants every few months or so, especially when it's hot.  It takes up to five years to get the soil in a raised bed really good enough to do much, but in the meantime you can grow things like beans or icicle radishes that will help build it up.

Another thing to consider is how much sun is your garden getting?  Here in Texas, we've discovered that the phrase "in full sun" is a curse.  LOL.  Most of my garden is in shade part of the day, and it's doing much better.  Actually, my best plants are those in pots, under the shade of a pecan tree.  I grow peppers, eggplants, basil, etc. in pots in addition to my raised beds.

One last thought---if you aren't getting good pollination, consider planting some native plants that will attract pollinators to your garden.  I just posted an article by a friend of mine from north TX on my garden blog that talks about her pollinator garden.  Take a look at it and get a few ideas.

Hope this helps!  Happy trails from HOT Texas!  bobbi c.

Earthly Gardener

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