Ankle High Corn by the 5th of JulyJuly 05, 2010
We’ve had good corn growing years, and we’ve had not-so-good corn growing years in our small urban space. Two years ago, we were gorging ourselves on delicious, home-grown cobs. Ironically, we hadn’t even planned to grow it that year. I simply ended up with leftover starts that we tucked into open spots in the parking-hellstrip. And, bam! We were enjoying sweet corn right off the stalk daily for weeks. We had so much of it, we froze much and enjoyed it throughout the winter. Then, last year, our corn was fit for feeding pigs — what little we harvested.
Because we live in a small urban setting and because we rotate crop locations, it takes some finesse to create a good corn growing spot each year. Last year we had a fairly good spot for the corn, but the stalks, despite being planted at the same time, simply didn’t mature together – with some started early in the greenhouse and a second round direct seeded into the ground later in spring. The plants bolted quickly in the early and incredible heat. Tassles and silks simply didn’t have their timing down, and the end result was stumpy, chewy, starchy cobs — and very few of them at that. I should have let them dry for the birds in winter.
There could be something to say for the varieties of corn I selected. But, I can’t attribute all the success to just the variety. In 2008 and in 2009 we grew F-1 Sugar Pearls. Each year they came from different sources and performed with very mixed results. So what about this year?
I have a great, sunny spot allocated to our annual 3-sisters garden in which we grow squash, beans and corn. But, because it has remained cool and wet into July, this bed has remained under hoops until just recently. Given this, I felt it was going to be tough to successfully seed corn into the beds. The plan was to grow it in a couple of perimeter rows. This would allow sun to make its way into the understory plantings. But, with the hoop house in place, germinating corn would have to fight with the scraping edges of row cover or plastic to succeed. So I had resigned myself to skip the corn this year. After all my CSA farmer had promised corn again this year, and hers is outstanding. Then, one day while re-seeding more beans — which continue to be slug food the minute they germinate — I decided “screw it” I’m putting in some corn. We’ll see what happens.
Like any monocot, the corn is coming up without a hitch. Grasses — weed or ornamental or edible — love my garden. At the end of June, I had high hopes we’d meet the mantra “knee-high by the 4th of July”. (And that was after seeding on June 12th.) But, the cold and wet continue. So, I’m here to report we’re all of ankle-high by the 5th of July. Yes, I seeded late, but usually when corn gets going, there’s no stopping its race to great heights. This year, it’s moving at the racing speed of a wonky-wheeled grocery cart. Still, sun & heat is predicted to roll in shortly, so we still have high hopes the corn ultimately will produce well.
I have a couple of varieties seeded. One is Yukon Chief. It is purported to mature in 55 days on dwarf stalks topping out around three feet high. So perhaps a current height lower than a nearby head of lettuce (and a plant tag) isn’t such a bad thing right now. It’s already proven itself readily able to germinate in cool weather. Here’s hoping it actually produces sugary ears on short stalks soon! If it is true to a 55 day turnaround, we should be seeing corn by the middle of August from this variety. Stay tuned to find out later in the season. For now, it’s all beets, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, snap peas, cauliflower and chard for us, from the garden, at the beginning of July.