I was determined to learn from my mistakes and try again this year. I did a lot more reading and selected a container that was about five times the size the one I used last year. So far, it looks like my hard work is paying off, and I may even have a few ears to harvest soon. What follows are the details of my attempt this year. There are a lot of images under the cuts, so if you're on dial-up, you've been forewarned.
My corn is grown from seed - it's a sweet bicolour that had a mouth-watering description on the packet. I used the same method for seed starting as I used with my cucumbers and herbs, but I won't do it that way for corn again. The root system of corn is too humongous.
Anyway, it all started with a packet of seeds...( Read more...Collapse )
I planted some Dutch sets among the little corn plants, thinking I had quite a bit of time before they started competing with each other, and I could have another harvest of nummy green onions. I learned that corn grows quite rapidly...( Read more...Collapse )
And then, tassels started to develop! It was embarrassingly exciting.( Read more...Collapse )
My corn continued to grow taller and the stalks became quite thick. And then something happened that abolished any doubts my neighbours might have about my sanity (or lack thereof). I found the beginnings of an ear of corn! And my gleeful squee could be heard for miles...( Read more...Collapse )
Of course, I also discovered a problem. I had some kind of grubs in my corn's leaves, eating them up from the inside out. They were possibly stalk borers...( Read more...Collapse )
My corn continued to grow and grow and grow. The tassels fully formed, more ears were developing, and I realised that I was going to have to figure out how to effectively pollinate the ears.
In fields, corn is wind-pollinated. The tassels produce pollen and the wind carries that pollen across the vast fields until it eventually lands on the silk of a developing ear of corn. However, I wasn't growing a field of corn. I only had seven plants, and when the wind blew, it carried the pollen from my tassels about thirty feet away from where the silk was. My original plan had been to bend down the stalks and tickle the ears, but I hadn't counted on how rigid the stalks would be. Bending them to the required angle would surely break them. This was a problem.
Another problem was that the tassels were forming considerably earlier and faster than the actual corn cobs, so there was a timing issue as well. Even if the pollen could ignore the wind and just drop straight down onto the ears, there were no ears ready to be pollinated at that time.
So I started collecting pollen in a paper envelope by holding the paper underneath each mature branch of the tassel and tapping it gently so that the pollen falls into the envelope (there's a picture under the next cut). The goal was to save it until I figured out how to effectively pollinate the ears once they were ready. I didn't want to use my fingers, because the silk on the cobs is so delicate - I didn't want the oils on my fingers to cause any damage. I didn't want to simply sprinkle pollen from the envelope either, because I wanted to make sure the pollen was as evenly distributed over the silk as possible.
I just couldn't figure out a solution. And then, by chance, I ran into an expert I'd been meaning to email about my problem for a couple of days. We talked a bit about the situation, and his experience with corn was with whole fields of it, so he didn't have any specific advice about hand pollination. However, he did remind me that corn was wind-pollinated, which got me to thinking.
All I had to do was imitate the wind!( Read more...Collapse )
And now, because 18 pictures isn't enough, I leave you with... ( a picspam of six more corn shotsCollapse )