Category Archives: Corn

Surfing the Rain

By Peter Heffelfinger

June 22, 2020

It has been a wet June, which has caused germination problems in some crops, but has allowed others, if planted at the right time, to thrive. I think of it as being like surfing: sometimes you catch the wave and sometimes the wave catches you.

I usually plant corn on June 1st, waiting for warm soil and settled weather. My garden site is generally damp and chilly all spring, being adjacent to a year round stream and cooled by onshore breezes. In past years, I’ve noted that other early bird gardeners who plant in mid-May often suffer from rotted seed and have to replant. Better to wait, plant successfully once and have a good harvest even if a week or two later in the season.

This year, having heard that one nearby gardener already had 4-inch high corn by late May, I succumbed to competitive garden envy and jumped the gun by planting seed on a sunny and warm May 28th. With our summers getting longer and warmer, all would be fine. Of course we soon had heavy rain and my corn barely came up. So I replanted a few weeks later. And then a second heavy rain ensued. So, finally by the last day of spring I spot-seeded a third time in between the few hardy sprouts that had managed to come up previously, hoping that I might get a small, mixed batch of corn by mid-September. Come nightfall, rain again. Wipe out, I’m sure. Now, I don’t expect anything like my usual stands of standard yellow, bi-color, and tall white corn. The early May corn planters got to ride the June waves of rain. Knee-high corn by the 14th of July.

But some other crops, planted on schedule in early spring, got a strong push from the wet weather. By mid-May the brassicas were pushing up tight against the tops of their floating row covers: broccoli, green and red cabbages, as well as Brussels Sprouts and early cauliflower. The Sugar Snap and oriental snow peas also took off in the cool weather. The tall snow peas have already reached the top of their 8-foot fencing and will need higher supports, not to mention a ladder for harvesting. The winter squash vines are filling in the gaps between their spaced hills, and the pole beans are starting to climb their trellis. Not to forget the abundant lettuces. So I shouldn’t complain. Nice to catch the wave when it comes.

Bee Swarm
While putting in tomato plant supports in my hoop house this past weekend I suddenly heard a very insistent hum, a loud buzzing of insects. Looking out to the nearby bee hives I saw a swirling, vertical cone of ascending bees getting larger and further away from their ground level boxes. The Queen Bee was leaving and taking all her workers with her. Fortunately the swarm settled into the overgrown vines on a nearby power pole instead of disappearing. The bees, now in a tight protective ball around the Queen, were still there when the beekeeper arrived an hour later. With a large bucket on the end of a long pole, he knocked groups of the bees into the bucket, and deposited the angry hummers into a large box on the ground. He hoped to catch the Queen, but she and her reduced retinue escaped. The next day the captured bees were given a new queen in a new hive. I hope the Queens who stayed home will continue to send out their pollen gathering workers to the flowering vegetables in the garden. We need the bees.

Late Spring in the Garden

By Peter Heffelfinger

Posted June 1, 2020

 

First Brassicas

The early spring plantings of brassicas finally emerged this week from their protective cocoon of floating row cover, revealing small heads of broccoli that will be cutting size soon, as well as cabbages just starting to head up. It’s always a pleasure to free up the maturing plants straining against the white cloth, having successfully avoided any root maggot fly infestation, and only a few snails hiding out on the lower leaves. It is also a reminder that the late spring/early summer crop of brassica starts will need to go in soon. The cycle of year-round cole plants keeps turning.

Corn

I usually wait until June 1st to plant corn, allowing the soil to heat up to 60F degrees. Too often early sowings succumb to seed rot and poor germination. This year I jumped the gun a bit during the sunny week after Memorial Day and got my corn planted. Hopefully the day of rain that came soon after will be just enough to start the seed growing, but not too much to cause a problem.


Corn is always a favorite crop, if you have the space to grow it, as well as a reliable supply of water. Corn plants require consistent watering for their tall stalks, large leaves and the eventual ears. I enjoy the sound of the rustling leaves in the wind, and am always amazed at the process of the tassels shedding pollen down to fertilize the delicate hairs that lead to each individual kernel.
With the recent pattern of warmer summers, sweet corn has become more reliable to grow in the Northwest garden. I plant three varieties, a standard yellow such as Bodacious, a bi-color called Peach & Cream, and my favorite, a long-season white such as Silver King.
Corn is one of the easiest vegetables to process for freezing. I blanch the ears for several minutes in boiling water, quickly chill in cold water to stop the cooking, and then slice off the kernels with a sharp knife. To preserve the real sweetness of fresh corn, use the back of the knife blade to scrape down all the milky juice from the cob and mix it in with the cut kernels. When defrosted and cooked for just a few minutes you will have the taste of fresh corn, almost as good as ears of corn fresh picked from the garden.

Tomatoes, Peppers, and Cukes

In the hoop house, tomato plants are leafing out vigorously and climbing up the rungs of the cages and a few flowers are appearing. The important thing is to trim off any lower leaf stems touching the soil, to avoid fungus infections. Consistent watering is required to promote steady growth as well as to avoid leaf curling, which can be a sign of either too much or too little water. To complicate matters, individual varieties may show different levels of water tolerance. Out of my 20 tomato plants, only one variety, a Sweet Million cherry tomato, has signs of leaf curl but still looks healthy, so I eased up on the water a bit. Gardening is always a mix of monitoring and adjusting.

Some of my peppers, bought early on from one source, were lagging behind others purchased later, so I dosed the smaller plants one time with liquid fish fertilizer, 2 tbsp. per gallon of water, to green them up a bit. I also pinched back all the peppers after they were planted, removing the first solo top buds in order to encourage branching and a greater number of secondary buds.

The cucumbers are finding their way onto their wire trellis, from the early Marketmore slicers, to the later planted Persians just starting appear, as well as a few pickling cuke starts just added to round out the collection. At some point in the summer there will be a first salad featuring homegrown cukes, tomatoes, and peppers to go with all the fresh lettuce that has been growing outside the hoop house.