corn

Fall 2016 Update

Well into the fall planting season, you might be wondering how my garden is growing.

Fantastic! My corn is thriving. Lined with lettuce, everyone is happy!

corn-and-lettuce

The corn is sprouted its first silk, lovely as a blonde beauty and a sure sign harvest time is nearing.

blonde-silk-beauty_corn

My tomatoes are burgeoning with fruit. Brushed with Dipel Dust, the worms haven’t got a chance!

tomatoes-in-progress-fall-2016

Dipel Dust is the white stuff on the leaves!

tomatoes-and-dipel-dust

Broccoli is expanding its reach. Still young and tender, but showing great promise. Those are my newly planted sweet onions next to them. For the most part, the peanuts have been pulled and boiled, making room for Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

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I’ll also be introducing a sole rosemary plant. I have a herb garden close to my house, but since I’m about to till it up for soil refreshment and bug removal purposes, I decided you can never have too much rosemary. Soon, I’ll have it near and far!

lovely-squash

My squash is satisfied and going strong. Can’t wait!

christmas-jalapeno-peppers

Alas, my peppers are waning but still producing. An assortment of green and red, they remind me of the upcoming holidays. Joy to the world…my garden is gorgeous!

Broccoli Babes

As my peanuts finish out for the season, it’s time to introduce a new crop. To best utilize my garden space, I interplant based on crop rotation rules. Crop rotation is an organic gardening practice where you change the placement of your plants from season to season. Doing so improves the structure and quality of your soil as well as minimizes the risk of disease and pest infestation. I use a rotation of beans-leaves-roots-fruits. Basically, this means that after my “beans” have produced, I plant “leaves.” In this case, beans = peanuts and leaves = broccoli. Peanuts fix nitrogen into the soil and broccoli requires lots of nitrogen to produce big green leaves so this rotation makes good sense.

baby-broccoli-and-mature-peanuts

In between the broccoli sprouts will be spinach. Both love nitrogen and are good companions in the garden. Other crop rotation considerations are how my tomatoes followed peanuts from earlier this season, corn followed my bush beans. These peanuts (shown above) actually followed okra, although I normally try to follow a fruit group, say tomatoes, squash or peppers.

my-fall-garden-2016

Above is my fall garden to date (just prior to the insertion of my tomato stakes and cables). Blueberry bushes are located in the farthest row. Black beans are in the ground next to them. Then there’s my corn, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, broccoli and spinach. Still to come this season are sweet onions and carrots, cabbage and chard. Potatoes will go in around January. Can’t wait!

Corn Channels

One of the best ways to ensure that your corn retains the moisture it needs for good development is what I call “corn channels.” Basically, these are deep grooves formed in the soil where I then plant my corn seeds. Simple! First, my husband tills the garden with his tractor and then I follow-up with my hand tiller.

tractoring dollar

I could use the channels formed by his tractor, but then my corn plants would not be spaced as I prefer.

deep-channels-for-corn-planting

Corn likes to snuggle. It keeps them safe from high winds. Remember this scene?

corn by storm

Not a pretty day in the garden when your corn sisters have fallen over after a windy day. By planting them closely together, I’m actually protecting them from this very threat. That’s why I pack them tightly together, about 8 – 12 inches apart down the row and also from bed to bed. I place walkways every second row of corn and align my sprinklers accordingly.

corn-in-progress

I think these babies look pretty happy! Next, I’ll interplant lettuce between the corn. The two seem to work well together (remember: lettuce loves everybody when it comes to companion planting!) and will help conserve space. I’ll also be adding hay mulch once my corn becomes better established.

“Three Sisters” in Garden Squabble

Three Sisters refers to the companion planting method early Native Americans utilized when planting corn, squash and beans. Theory holds that the corn provides support for the bean vines to climb, beans fix nitrogen in the soil to feed the corn and squash leaves shade the ground to prevent weeds from spoiling the fun. Great idea, right? I even planted a head of lettuce in the mix!

Three Sisters living together

Ingenious. Plants working in harmony as nature intended. Unfortunately, in my garden the results have not turned out to be so harmonious for all the girls. Beans are climbing…

beans climbing corn

However, they tend to strangle their host sister when her petite corn stalk can no longer support them. Talk about selfish and greedy! More

Shopping Season Begins

It’s time to buy your seeds!  If you haven’t been seed saving, that is.  Personally, I have beans coming out the wa-zoo which means I won’t be purchasing any of these babies. But I will be looking for some fresh bibb lettuce. While I know how to harvest lettuce seeds for seed-saving, I haven’t been making the time. Call me lazy, call me too eager for the next harvest, I’ve pulled most of my plants before they had a chance to flower (like this lovely lady below). Seeds will form in the flowers, whereby you can remove from the plant, hang it to dry in a bag making collecting the tiny seeds easy.

lettuce going to seed

Now, for those of you who are trying to save seeds, I completely understand how you could become so excited over your tomato crop making sauce–ketchup, salads, even canning the beauties–that you completely forgot to save a few ripe tomatoes for the purpose of saving seeds.  Yep. You plopped them right into the boiling water for skin removal without even thinking.  It happens.  It’s okay.  More Beefsteak tomato seeds are on my list, too. I mean, these guys are gorgeous, I can’t get enough of them!

seed shopping

But take heart.  You’re enjoying the thrill of gardening, reaping what you sow and cooking the dickens out of it.  Which is all good. However, keep in mind that when those seed catalogs arrive and you eagerly run to the mailbox (or jog), be careful. Ice tends to be slippery. You don’t want to break a hip or bruise a wrist–you’re going to need those limbs in good condition to begin the season!

Now, once you’re settled indoors, snug as a bug in a rug in front of a warm fire, pull out those gorgeous catalog pages filled with plump ripe fruits and vegetables, a colorful array of flowers and herbs, and look for heirloom seeds.  Not hybrid, not super-duper-extra-sweet or double the normal growth potential…

Uh, uh.  You want heirloom, preferably organic.  Why?

my salsa tomatoes

Because once you plant those hybrid seeds, the ones meant to overcome Mother Nature’s deficiencies (though don’t let her hear you say that out loud), you’ll be sorely disappointed next season when the seeds you saved don’t produce.  Hybrids aren’t natural and when you replant the seeds, your new crop of plants will not reproduce the original fruit, if they germinate at all.  Hybrid Better Boys will yield a bounty of produce, but next season?  These bad boys might only yield a crop of cherry-like tomatoes.  Se pasa. It happens.

So save yourself the heartache and only buy heirloom seeds.  And while you’re shopping, remember to only buy what you’ll actually eat. Otherwise you’ll end up with a rotted mess of unwanted produce. Plant seeds according to package instructions and keep moist.  Think of them as babies and treat them as such.

This spring I’m tripling my corn beds. Now that I know how to control those dastardly insects, I think I can reap a golden harvest this year. I’ll keep you posted. Until then…happy gardening!

Mixed Kernels

It’s a sad day when you harvest your corn–the one cob you’ve been watching and waiting for the silks to turn brown–only to discover you have missing kernels when you peel back the husk. It’s like, your cob was forming, doing a great job, and *poof* suddenly became too tired to finish the job.

corn missing kernels

Hmph. It’s a disappointment, to be sure. Most likely occurred during pollination, or the lack thereof. If you planted your corn in one single row, pollination can be tricky. I mean, there’s a reason those commercial growers plant all those corn plants so close together–proximity packs a more powerful pollination! It’s power in numbers when it comes to wind, too. Corn is very susceptible to wind, and tends to be blown over at the first kiss of a summer breeze.

corn by storm

Missing kernels can also be caused by poor watering/feeding during pollination. Corn is a heavy feeder, and if you don’t give it what it needs when it needs it, well, you know… It kind of poops out on you. It happens. But I’m here to tell you, chin up, friendly gardener. It’s not the end of the world. So what if you can’t serve perfectly-formed cobs of corn to your family and friends, you can do one better (or different!). Roast them!

That’s right. Wipe those tears away and listen up. You’re going to scrape those beautiful kernels from the cob, toss them in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper, a little parsley and heck, while we’re at it, a sliced jalapeno pepper (mine was red) and roast those babies. Ta-da! You’ve made lemonade from your lemons.

roasted corn

I preheated the broiler to high, spread my mixture on a cookie sheet lined with nonstick foil, and then spread the corn mixture out in a single layer. Cooking time was about 15 minutes, with me turning the corn mixture once or twice during the process for even browning. Just keep an eye on them and roast to YOUR idea of perfection.

The flavor was divine; a wonderfully sweet corn flavor with a hint of popcorn that results in a belly full of pride and pleasure. YUM. I served mine with some garden broccoli and a filet of plank-roasted salmon for a fabulous weeknight dinner. The family was pleased!

Now it’s your turn. Enjoy!

The Verdict Is In…

I’ve been struggling with growing corn. Between the bugs and the food and water, my corn has not been happy with me. But no more. While it might not be the biggest cob of corn, it certainly is the most beautiful.

No worms, no black spots–not even missing kernels. Nope, this cob of corn is perfect! Sure, it’s somewhat on the small size, but I’m 100% organic and you’ll find no super-growth nutrient mixes in my soil which I’m convinced must be part of the issue with regard to size. That, and natural soil composition. I don’t know what California is made of, but they’ve got seriously good dirt. All the produce I’ve ever seen from California is HUGE. Ginormous. And delicious!

But I live in Florida and must make do with what I have. And right now, I’m feeling pretty good.

How did I do it? Liquid seaweed and fish emulsion fertilizer, plus a healthy blow of Dipel Dust. The worms are the worst offenders, followed by the grasshoppers/leaf hoppers. How about you? Any success stories to share?

Easy Edible Landscaping

Why everyone doesn’t have an edible garden, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because they have husbands, similar to mine, who feel vegetables belong in the vegetable garden, herbs belong in the herb garden, fruit trees lined up in neat rows, orchard style out back, and well, you get the point. Everything has its place. Much like his tools (a lesson my son is still trying to master).

However, I’m the creative type who likes to think outside the box. Okay, “like” is a relative term here. I think outside of the box, period. “Box?” my brain asks. “What box? I don’t see any box around my head.”

You get the point. I’m odd that way, but that oddity tends to lend itself to GREAT ideas. Awesome! Like my homemade herb sachet for the dryer, and my wonderfully tasty rosemary lemonade. Basil lemon ice chips, anyone? Oven-sundried tomatoes? Why not? There are a ton of creative things you can do with your vegetables and one of my favorites is edible landscaping. I mean, why banish the vegetables to a faraway garden where you have to trot off to collect every meal? Why not place it right outside your door? We are a convenience-oriented society these days. Makes sense to keep your herbs and veggies close.

Besides, vegetable plants are simply beautiful. Take this gorgeous cabbage. It looks more like a flower than a head of chow.

Red cabbage

And I don’t know about you, but grazing a bushy basil or rosemary plant garnering a whiff of scent in the process is sheer decadence.

rosemary hedge

Below your rosemary hedge, lettuce would make a lovely addition.

Tami's gorgeous lettuce

What about corn? These fellas grow to be six-foot tall? Why not plant them for a summer hedge around your backyard? You’re going to be spending more time outdoors, anyway. Makes sense to add a bit of privacy. Me? I live in Florida which means I can grow these beauties fall AND spring.

Cody the garden dog

Now that you’ve got the hang of it, maybe a lovely squash border near your corn?

school squash and corn

The two are wonderfully friendly, as in companion planting perfection. Really, when you get down to it, there are all kinds of options for edible landscaping. From year-round herbs to seasonal fruits and vegetables, your plants can provide dual benefits.

However, if you decide to incorporate an edible garden into your landscape, be sure you’re not the only one who knows about your new endeavor. If you are, you may emerge from your home with the same great disappointment as I did one sunny afternoon. My husband sprayed my bright tender greens with insecticide. Seems he thought the little gems were weeds and not a salad garden in the making. But it’s not his fault. I didn’t label the area as “edible landscape” in progress, nor did I advise him to stay clear: organic only. Lesson learned.

Come fall, I’m looking forward to a fresh try at edible landscaping. Why not try it for yourself? No lawn? No worries! Move those silly flowers from their boxes and replace them with bean blossoms!

beautiful pole bean blossom

Works for me. 🙂

Ingenious AND Easy!

Okay, you know I’m always looking for an easier way to garden. Not that gardening in and of itself is difficult, but it does require time and effort. How much time and effort depends solely upon the gardener. Enter smart new idea…

corn channelsPlant your seeds in channels instead of holes. Yep, that’s it! Create channels down the length of your raised beds and drop your seeds–kernels, in the case of corn–and cover with compost. Done. (Told you it was easy, didn’t I?)

Look at those gorgeous lines in the dirt. And all I had to do to make them was drag my tiller through the dirt. Because I have sandy dirt in this section. My sweet potatoes used to be located here and those gals LOVE sandy soil, although corn doesn’t. Which is why I filled in my channels with compost. Composted cow manure will work, as will mushroom compost. Anything to enrich the sandy soil will do and is an absolute must. Corn won’t be happy without it.

corn channels filled with seeds and compost

Oh, and don’t forget the fertilizer. An all-purpose organic fertilizer works well but do remember to keep it handy. Corn plants are heavy feeder. Real oinkers in the garden, so keep them fed–especially with lots of nitrogen–and moist (channels work well to keep the water directed toward the roots) and your corn will provide more ears of pleasure than your heart could desire. Additionally, dusting with dipel dust worked so well for my tomatoes, I’m convinced it will also prove to be the secret weapon for my corn plants so I’ll dust my corn to keep the varmints at bay.

corn sprouts in channels

When thinking about the nearby plants in your garden, remember that corn and tomato don’t get along. At all. So keep in mind to keep these two away from each other when planning your rows.

Tired of Weeding?

My kids are, most definitely. Me, too. With a garden 40 ft. X 100 ft. the weeds can get a bit crazy. I’ve instituted the use of heavy black paper to cover by beds between plantings, which cuts down on the time spent pulling those rascally weeds, but what about the beds where I’m actively growing?

They still need weeding. The solution? Corn gluten. It’s all-natural and the perfect organic solution to weed prevention–prevention being the key word.

Corn gluten meal contains naturally occurring substances which inhibit the growth of the seed’s tiny feeder roots. This causes the weed seedlings to die before their roots ever have a chance to become established. Also, many products sold on the market contain nitrogen, which makes them a good fertilizer, too. Best of all, corn gluten is safe for children and pets.

corn gluten

The only downside is the solution doesn’t come cheap. A 25 lb. bag will run you around $35 and you must apply liberally to gain the full effect, as shown above. You could even stand to apply heavier than I’ve done, but you get the idea. Liberally means a lot. However, this stuff works.

So if you have established plants in your garden, weed the area well and then sprinkle corn gluten around them as a weed preventer. If they’re only seedlings, I’d wait a bit, continuing to pull weeds by hand until the plants are of decent size. I once had a batch of okra and although I didn’t apply the corn gluten very close to the babies, it still worked to prevent their growth. 🙁

Look forward to hearing about YOUR experience!