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Garden Fail: Corn catastrophe

Welcome VEGhead to the first blog in a new series of Garden Fails. It happens pretty often as I am a learning gardener. I love sharing my failures because so many people I talk to tell me that they "can't grow anything." More often than not, I plant first and research last. Seeds grow when given soil, water and sunshine. However, that's really not ALL that is needed. Learn from my mistakes or share if you stumbled upon this blog while trying to learn why your corn also did this. Note: I continue to grow corn despite not yet having a successful harvest.

As a learning gardener, In my 4th gardening year, I had more room that in previous gardens. I decided that I wanted to grow corn. Sweet corn that I had grown as a child and popcorn which I remember my dad bring home and popping straight off the cob. Who doesn't love sweet corn. Even the pickiest children who don't like vegetables will often still accept corn, plus have fresh corn on the cob for barbecues was something I'm all about. Popcorn is my favorite cold winter snack and I do pop mine from a big bag of kernels. How cool would it be to have popcorn that I had grown in my own garden.

While trying to branch out and chose different varieties of plants (something I'm still working on) I ended up with two varieties from Burpee. Golden Bantam and Early Sunglow were the two sweet corn varieties that I had. A friend gifted me Bantam because it is an Heirloom which I prefer to grow. While browsing seeds at the grocery store, I picked up Sunglow because it claimed to be done two weeks sooner. My thoughts were I could plant both and then not have to succession plant which I'm terrible about doing. I looked up heirloom popcorn and came across Strawberry popcorn seeds on Amazon from Seedville USA.

I wanted to plant all three varieties. I knew that corn and tomatoes could not be planted together. So I planted all my corn in the opposite bed. I also wanted to try 3 sister's planting to the test. The plans I drew up from my bed was two rows of corn going right down the middle. Four inches apart. The sweet corn in two rows to the center of the bed and two rows of popcorn of the other.

At first I watched my corn grow it was doing well. It was doing exceptionally well during the entire life of the plant. I had been hand pollinating almost all of my plants in this garden, because of lack of pollinators. Once the tassels exposed themselves I also hand pollinated my corn. I rubbed the tassels with my hand and then rubbed the hair of the corn. Have you grown corn! Are you cringing yet?? Ignorance in gardening is not bliss.

Finally I noticed the ears beginning to swell and the corn had begun to turn yellow. So I harvested. Unfortunately... This is what I found.

What I found out after the fact. Each on of the hairs on an ear of corn is linked to a kernel. If the hair isn't fertilized, the kernel doesn't form. The Corn is mostly pollinated with wind. The best way to plant corn to maximized pollination is in a block. Hand pollination of corn may be required if there is virtually no wind or if you have a very low amount of plants. The way to hand pollinate is to grab the stalk of the plant and lightly shake it so that the pollinate can fall onto the tassels. The other HUGE mistake that I made was that I planted two very different kinds of corn next to each other where they could cross pollinate. Popcorn is a starch variety and sweet corn is...sweet. So they have a different structure and there for should not be planted together. Cross pollinated would cause not sweet, sweet corn or popcorn that has too much sugar and not able to pop.

Obviously this is not what I was growing for. However, I was able to harvest a considerable amount of knowledge and experience that will make me a better gardener next season. Hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any garden fails pertaining to corn or other garden produce.

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