Monday, May 6, 2013

Corn Planting 2013

This is our first year attempting to grow corn, so I'm very interested to see how things go. Corn is one of the items that we like to buy from local farmers in quantity and freeze for long term storage, so it would be great to be able to produce our own.

I didn't do a whole lot of prep work ahead of time for the corn. We planted it in an area of the garden that had been planted in cover crops, so I basically just mowed those down as low as I could, and didn't do anything else ahead of time. I would have liked to have been able to amend the soil with compost, but we didn't have any compost available in sufficient quantities, and so I decided to save it for when we transplant the tomatoes and peppers.

We had considered doing a modified three sisters planting, but changed our mind at the last minute. I say modified because we were only going to actually plant two of the three components, as we don't like beans, and planned to use pumpkins in place of squash as the vining component.

Even though we didn't end up doing a three sisters planting, we did base our planting on the idea of a 10' by 10' block. Since corn is wind pollinated it is important to plant multiple rows, rather than a single long row, so that pollination can occur from multiple directions. We intended to plant three rows, spaced five feet apart, but ended up doing four rows because we had seed left and some extra space. We may find that the five feet spacing is more than we need, but I wanted to allow plenty of room to get between rows. We can adjust next year if needed.

I normally do a very bad job of creating straight rows, so decided to spend some extra time to get this right on the corn. We marked each row off by setting wooden stakes at each end, then running some baling twine, that I had saved from the straw I had spread earlier, between them. After doing the first row, we measured over five feet, reset the stakes, and repeated. I did make the mistake of starting my measurements from the edge of the garden, rather than the other crops, so the rows do not run perfectly parallel to the potatoes, but that's just a minor annoyance.

Since corn only needs to be covered with an inch or so of soil, we decided to just use a hoe to create a shallow furrow to plant into. Andrea had seen a video that showed how to use a Winged Weeder to create a furrow, so we tried that at first. Maybe it is due to an issue with sharpness, but it seemed that this tool did little more than scratch the surface, and was going to require several passes to create even an inch deep furrow. I decided, instead, to use a Warren Hoe, that we had found in the storage shed when we originally purchased the trailer. This hoe worked much better, and with just two passes, I was able to create a furrow that was more than sufficient for our needs.

Once the furrows were ready, I added some blood meal, and incorporated it into the soil. I didn't use any measurements to determine how much to use, and am sure that I didn't apply it consistently. The purpose of the blood meal is to add some additional nitrogen, since corn is such a heavy feeder. I will most likely also be adding more blood meal once the plants get twelve inches tall or so, as well as trying some other methods or adding nitrogen.

With the furrows created and blood meal added, all that remained was to drop the seed and cover. We spaced the seed twelve inches apart, although many people suggest planting closer initially, then thinning to twelve inches. I'm not a big fan of over seeding, but since we had so much seed left, it probably wouldn't have been a bad idea. After lightly covering the seeds with soil, we were finished. Normally I would have watered, but the weather forecast was calling for rain, so we didn't think it was necessary. In the past relying on rain has been a mistake, but this time the rain came less than an hour after planting, so it was the right decision.

The variety of corn that we planted is Incredible, which is a sugar-enhanced hybrid. This variety is, by far, my favorite of those I have tested. In the past we have sometimes had trouble finding farmers to purchase Incredible from, so that is yet another benefit to growing our own. We will likely begin experimenting with heritage varieties at some point, and I suspect I may have to adjust my expectations a bit when we do. We planted our corn on May 4th, which means we aren't likely to be able to harvest until the end of July or even early August. We should probably have either planted a bit earlier, or also planted an early maturing variety. That is something we may consider doing next year.

Edit: The seed from this planting never sprouted, so we've replanted with new seed. I did a few things differently, which I describe in Corn Planting 2013 - Take 2

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