Small Scale Corn

Small Scale Corn

I never had much luck with corn. Planted a few rows, watched it grow, watched the little ears tassle out, then…bupkis. I finally found the secret.

Plant in blocks. Four rows with four plants in each row, all six inches apart. The problem, you see, is pollination. If you’re growing acres of the stuff, pollen is no problem. The air is thick with it. But with limited space, rows simply don’t cut it.

So figure out how long it will take your family to eat 32 ears of corn. (That’s right, they grow two to the stalk on most varieties.) Let’s say it will take 10 days. Plant a block every 10 days. Bigger family? You can eat 32 ears in 4 days, you say? No problem, plant a block every 4 days. Start at the north end of the garden so the older, bigger stalks don’t shade the newbies. Once you’ve harvested both ears off a stalk, toss it in the compost and follow up with a cool weather crop in that spot. They’ll appreciate the shade while the days are still hot.

Corn likes rich soil, thus the bury-the-fish-head trick Squanto taught the Pilgrims. If you’re like us, with semi-trained house pets who like to dig holes, then eat or roll in what they find in them, come directly indoors and either upchuck or roll on the carpet, respectively, forget that trick. There are alternatives. If you have a fish tank, rather than pouring that disgusting, evil, nasty, stinky perfect, nitrogen-rich, free fertilizer down the drain, rinse the filter fluff in a pail of warm water, dig 6 inch deep trenches where the corn will go, and pour the stuff in there. You can toss the used charcoal in the trench. It will decompose, but the fluff won’t. Do this at least 2 weeks ahead of planting to give the goop a chance to mellow.

Fill the trenches back in, though. Your dog may not be interested in fish poop, but flies think it’s yummy.

No fish tank? No problem. You can buy fish fertilizer at your local garden store, or use that compost you’ve been collecting.