Miolea Organic Farm

  (Adamstown, Maryland)
Organic Farming from a City Boy's Perspective

Corn Battles pt 2

Part 2 of 3 

At our old house I tracked sunlight to find out what little plot of land got the most sunshine and I would plant corn in that area.  I was stopped from planting in the front of the house one year, something about being tacky or something but I would have.  The first year on the farm we grew about twelve rows by fifty feet.  It was not organic seed but it was raised organic.  By all accounts it was a winner and we were off and running.

As we started to prepare for certification we learned that you could only use certified organic seed.  So the next year we went totally organic and that’s when things started to fall apart.  Year after year we failed to get corn like we had that first year.  It was not the seeds' fault as much as it was the inexperience of the gardener.   When we finally started to get things right we found we also started feeding the wildlife.

One of our sustainable practices is to save seeds from year to year and I wanted to do this with the corn.  In the old days this was standard practice, farmers would keep seed from one year to the next in order to plant.  That’s when we learned the difference between hybrids and open pollinated.  A hybrid is a mix of characteristics between two different types of plants in the same species.  

A hybrid corn seed example could be a mix of a corn plant that has large kernels and a corn plant that is very sweet.  The child seed of those two would have both characteristics a large kernel that is very sweet.   You plant the hybrid seed and get corn that has very large sweet kernels on the cob.  If you were to save the seeds from the hybrid and planted them the next year there isno  telling what dominant characteristic will show up.  What is known is that you will not get both traits; you will get one or the other. 

So you could have a plant that has large kernels or is very sweet but not both. Open pollinated plants on the other hand are consistent from year to year.  If you have a plant that is open pollinated then you can harvest the seeds and use them the next year.  Not only will you get consistent results but you will be able to save on seed costs.  Don't confuse hybrids with genetically modified organisms (GMO).  GMO's are genetically modified on a DNA level, not just mixing traits of the same species.  For greater understanding of GMO and the potential dangers in our food supply go to WWW.HULU.COM  and search for "Future of Food,”

We've tried all kinds of planting techniques, transplanting, planting early and covering them with row covers and planting corn with the lowest number of days to germination.  It is all in an attempt to be the first one on the block with sweet corn.  My true motivation is to get sweet corn for myself and my family.  We do not eat corn from any other source.  We eat what we grow, freezing much to get through the winter.  Besides there is no meal better than fried tomatoes and corn on the cob; add steamed Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and you have raised the meal to mythic standards. 

The earlier you get corn the higher the price justification at the market (the law of supply and demand) which is the other incentive to growing early.  However, these practices are not without peril.  Corn needs soil and ambient temperatures to be no lower than fifty degrees Fahrenheit.  You get a frost and your whole first planting can be wiped out.  It’s a gamble that if you know about going into it you are prepared when a late frost hits.  Being prepared doesn't mean you are out of the woods, it just means you have a chance at saving the first planting.

This year was no exception when it came to planting early with one notable change.  The corn was planted in our very first garden plot.  The plot of land was completely encased with chicken wire.  I had buried it one foot deep with five feet sticking out of the ground.  I also used metal posts to keep the wire up.  Without knowing I added a degree of protection from the groundhogs and raccoons.  If they tried to climb the fence it would collapse backwards from their weight, stopping them from getting in.  If the raccoons ever get their act together one will climb and bring the fence down letting his buddies get in.  We'll have to keep an eye on that.  In the mean time the corn battles rage on.

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