Good News/Bad News on Growing Corn

Operation Growing Corn 2015 is kind of a mixed bag at the moment.  On the one hand, the corn is starting to tassel at the top and drop its pollen.

growing corn

growing corn

I even have one stalk that has a little ear and corn silks forming.

growing corn

But, a raccoon or something else sinister seems to be systematically annihilating a single stalk of corn each day. It’s happening around the perimeter of the area where I’m growing corn, so while I do think the Three Sisters planting is helping deter the nasty creature/s, it’s certainly not been 100% effective. Bummer, I know, Hilda.

And other, far tinier tormentors, are harshing on my  mellow. Hundreds of greenish/blueish/icky-ish corn aphids have descended. Of course, I used my trusty aphid soap solution found here (it’s good for blight, aphids, rickets, scurvy, dandruff or just about anything else that ails ya).

Aphids may be disgusting and make me feel itchy when I see them, but most sources said that corn aphids in particular don’t usually pose any real threat to growing corn. Still, it felt good to put a dent in the dastardly population with my spray.

growing corn

See the big ant on the left? Just when you thought the whole thing couldn’t get any grosser, ants actually “milk” sticky sap from aphids, similar to the way humans milk cows. So, if you suddenly see a bunch of beefy ants hanging around your plants, there’s a good chance aphids are nearby.

growing corn

While I admit the picture above is super yuck, thanks to the the trail of crispy, black aphid bodies letting me know the soap spray is working, it’s not quite as grody as you might think. The white stuff is just flakes of dried soap, and the things on the leaves that look like grains of rice are just from the corn tassle.

So, anyway, that’s what’s happening here: growing corn, cursing the racoons, and killing aphids. How about you?

 

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Thumb’s Up for Three Sisters

It’s been a hot minute (literally) since we’ve checked in with my Three Sisters experiment. I have to say, based on earlier pictures, I think it’s working.

three sisters planting

The corn comes up past my belly button, which … doesn’t mean much to you, does it? OK, I’m 5′ 7″, so the oldest corn is about …  about 3 feet tall. We totally crushed the “knee high by the Fourth of July” adage.

The zucchini looks beautiful – no sign or even concern about squash vine borers –  and I don’t think planting late will harm us at all.

three sisters planting

We have a couple of teeny ones that something was kind enough to sample for us with a nibble out of the end.

three sisters planting

I even managed to get two new zucchi transplants in, and they’re doing well.

three sisters planting

three sisters planting

The pole beans kind of missed the finer point about growing up around the cornstalk, and not the leaves, but the corn doesn’t seem to mind. The beans are even starting to get some flowers, and flowers mean beans to eat!

three sisters planting

three sisters planting

So, the Three Sisters are cruisin’ right along. I’ve been feeding them weekly with fish emulsion to keep the happy, and everybody is green and joyful at this point. Here’s hoping we can harvest our first zucchini in the next week or so!

Trying the Three Sisters Planting

I’m a glutton for punishment, so I’m trying corn again, even though raccoons and rain decimated it last year. Probably this very racoon, actually. But without animal or meteorological malfeasance, I think we would have had a great corn harvest, so I’m giving it another go, with an update.

We all know the Native Americans were genius farmers, with Three Sisters planting probably being their No. 1 hit. Sister Bean fixes nitrogen into the soil for nutrients, Sister Corn provides a tall “pole” for Sister Bean to climb up and benefits from her nitrogen, and Sister Squash grows lush and low, providing a “mulch” to keep weeds down and a thicket of spiky stems to keep out rowdy raccoons. (They say racoons, possum, etc. won’t enter into a garden patch where they can’t see out; here’s hoping!)

I might also like the idea of Three Sisters because I am the youngest of three girls (three sisters!) and my nickname growing up was Beans because I looked like a bean pole (er, not so much anymore, and neither of my two sisters, M and S,  resemble squash or corn but nostalgia). Whatever the reason, I am eager to see how the Three Sisters technique works!

I had a packet of Burpee Early and Often sweet corn seed left over from last year, some Squash-Grey zucchini seeds, and I bought a packet of Kwintus pole beans because all I had on hand were bush bean seeds. From what I can gather (and hunter!), bush beans just don’t work in the Three Sisters scenario. If I recall, I think it’s because, A, bush beans don’t grow tall enough so they get shaded out by the corn and possibly even the squash and, B, they fix nitrogen into the soil at a later date in their life cycle than pole beans so they’re not as beneficial to the corn and squash. So, this is strictly a pole dance (heh).

I started the corn seeds inside since it seemed to work so well last year, even though many gardeners think starting corn is a no-no. I sowed the corn on June 1 and by Sunday, June 14, they were ready to go outside. Heck, they were probably ready earlier than that. Well, some of them, anyway. So far, the germination has been a little spotty, but that’s probably to be expected.

See, the interesting thing about Burpee’s Early and Often sweet corn is that it’s designed so that the ears are ready at various times, some earlier in the season, some later. So, it stands to reason that some of the seeds are going to germinate sooner than others. In the picture below, you can see the number of empty seed trades (corn that got planted) was pretty small compared the number of seeds that still need to germinate.

three sisters planting

What’s with the black plastic, you ask? A story for another day, friends.

I’ll give the ungerminated seeds another day or two to start popping up. In the meantime, I planted the tiny corns that came up and were about 3 to 6 inches tall. There were 9 of them, which isn’t enough for proper pollination.  So,  if there’s no further action in the seed trays above, I’ll get another packet of Early and Often and do a round two.

In any case, I think it’ll be fine because I planted the corn in a circle, and the tallest (oldest) corn plants will be in the center of the circle while the shorter ones will be growing on the outside. This means the stalks in the center won’t get shaded out.  Anyblather, enough talk – let’s see the corn!

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