The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Sweet corn puzzle

Spotty corn germination

What's wrong with this picture?

(Guess before you peek!)

Spotty corn pollination

If you said that Artemesia was eating our sweet corn, you got tricked by the zoom-related flattening of the photograph. Our little doeling was actually about five feet beyond the corn in question when I clicked the shutter button on our camera.

On the other hand, if you noticed the large distance between the corn plants, you're on the right track. My germination test this past winter suggested that last year's corn seeds were fine. But in the real-world setting of our garden, those same seeds came up very spottily. That's a problem since corn is wind pollinated and relies on a relatively large stand to ensure the seeds develop well and the ears bulk up. In fact, I was expecting to see lots of cobs like the one pictured above when the time finally came to harvest our crop.

Sweet corn harvest

To my surprise, most of the seeds seem to have set even with less than a dozen plants to spread their pollen. While I'm glad the corn plants came through for us this time around, I've resolved to stick to buying corn seed every year rather than trying to eke out those packets for a second season. It appears that corn, like onions, is simply better planted during year one. Live and learn! At least we can still eat my mistakes.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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What variety(ies) of corn do you plant?
Comment by NaYan Wed Jul 29 08:49:27 2015

I had that problem too, since I only plant a 4' x 20' patch with three rows, I had seed left over from a previous year. Very spotty germination.

This year I bought new seed (Golden Queen) and due to last years poor germination I over planted, and should have thinned but did not. My result was very thin, weak stalks that produced little 3 and 4" cobs.

Grew up in MN and can garden there but despite years of living in coastal GA and consulting local gardeners I still can't garden like I used to!

Comment by Eric Wed Jul 29 17:21:22 2015

NaYan --- I hadn't mentioned corn varieties before, because we hadn't really settled on a favorite. But I think the variety we've been growing last and this year is a winner --- Vision. Keep in mind that we have simple tastes when it comes to corn --- the sweeter the better. And I'm willing to eschew seed-saving in favor of super-sweet hybrids as a result.

Eric --- I'm sorry to hear that! It seems like every change we make to our gardens requires a few years of learning, so I can only imagine how hard a couple of thousand miles change in location would make it!

Comment by anna Sat Aug 1 13:12:54 2015

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