How to Grow Righteous CORN!
Happy Cinco de Mayo, and Super Moon! I hope you will be enjoying one of our local cultural favorites, hot buttered corn on a stick! It’s a great Lunar planting day too, btw!
There are lots of ways to grow corn, depends on your locality. Some grow them on top of the furrows, others, like me, plant them IN the bottom of the trench! In hot zones, it saves water. Water frequently, they love it and need it. An adequate water supply is critical during silking, pollination, and ear development. Water-stress at this time can cause poor quality ears. Broadcast some arugula seeds among your corn, it will grow quickly, make an edible living mulch, also conserves water. Your corn in trenches will be more deeply rooted in solid ground, more stable if you have winds, otherwise, you may find yourself staking them.
If you are a fresh corn lover, grow the early maturing varieties and keep planting batches successively for a steady supply. These plants are smaller, sometimes the cobs a bit smaller. Might be perfect for you! Experiment. Another way to plant successively, if you won’t be seed saving, is plant an early variety and a late variety at the same time. One planting, two batches at different times! Your later variety will likely be a bigger plant, that’s why it takes longer, with bigger ears, maybe needing a tad more space between plants/rows.
Corn is a heavy feeder – put lots of well aged manure in your soil before you plant, give them a little more when they get 12 to 18” tall. When to plant corn? When soil temp is 60 degrees or more, they like it hotter! Alternatively you could try the method the Seneca Indians used. When it’s comfortable to sit on your bare bottom in the dirt, it’s warm enough to sow corn. I might suggest warning the neighbors first, however; and don’t forget your loincloth.
Pollination is super important to corn! Every silk is one kernel. The empty spots on an ear of corn indicate poor pollination. Plant in blocks rather than long single rows. If you must plant in rows, plant at least in two snuggled rows, staggering your planting so the rows can be closer together. Nature’s way of self pollinating is done by the wind and you pray. But, hey, you can help! Midday, on a calm day, bend the tassels over the silks, gently so as not to break the stalks, shake the tassels. You will see the beautiful pollen floating in the air, hopefully right on those silks! A quote: ‘The yellow ‘dust-like’ pollen that falls from the anthers of the tassel actually represents two to five million individual, nearly microscopic, spherical, yellowish-translucent pollen grains.’ That should do it!
Part of having glorious corn is knowing when to harvest it! The window is rather small, just a few days. And you have to keep watch. It looks cool, all snug in its leaves, like you could just let it stay there forever, but not so! When the silks turn brown or dark, you need to pull back a bit of leaf, and stick your fingernail in one of those fat kernels! If the juice is milky, it’s time! Grab hold of that ear, twist and pull down, snapping it off the stalk. You can eat it raw, right then and there after you tear the leaves off and remove the silks, or get it to your fridge ASAP to chill it down and stop it from starching up, or, get it in a pot of boiling water, cook, butter, eat hot and dripping, or head for the Barbie, Baby! Save those straps (corn leaves) for tamale wraps!
If you grow too much, God forbid, cut it off the cob and pop it in the freezer. Great for sprinkling on summer salads, or brightening winter stews!
Seeds and Popcorn! If you are planting away from other corn varieties, not hybrids, and like that corn a lot, let your best one keep an ear and let it seed for next year’s planting. What a marvelous treat from year to year, or is that ear to ear?! Or, if you have space to grow a lot, put some seeds in a brown paper bag with some tasty powdered spices, put it in the micro-oven or spice up some oil in a pan, cover, and pop your own! Completely organic! Super gift for friends!
You are invited to join us at Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden Saturday May 19 for a Master Gardener Public Workshop on Lasagna Gardening and tour of the Garden following! 10 to 11:30, sturdy shoes, hat, sunscreen, bring water, there are no restroom facilities. If you have never been to the garden before, it’s a treat! Park behind, we will have the gate open for you! That’s at Modoc Rd and Pilgrim Terrace Dr, just opposite Portesuello Av.