This afternoon I harvested ornamental corn from my backyard garden. It
was pitiful. If all farmers were like me, the world would starve. So
I have some questions, thinking about next year.
* How do I improve pollination? I had 4 rows of corn, and about 10-15
plants in each row, about 6 inches apart. That's closer than the seed
packet recommended, but comparable to the spacing that the local
* I picked the corn now, even though it wasn't ready, because the
forecast is for cold weather soon. Would frosty temperatures kill
corn? If not, I could have left it to grow longer. The professional
corn farmers in this area harvested about three weeks ago.
Ted Shoemaker, certified Gray Thumb
Madison, Wisconsin, US
USDA zone 4/5
AHS heat zone 4/5
Sunset zone 43
*** You and me both, I planted 10' x 10' , very close together and it
still did not pollinate well... the year before I was told do do dense
planting and water an inch of water (min) per week - I planted silver
queen and candy corn, ;P some large sweet kernels, but ugly as sin !
I will watch the responses for what to try next year ! So we don't
starve to death! Hahaha.....
Six inches is a little tight. Better to sow your seed farther apart, unless
you intend to heavily fertilize with N the way farmers do.
With such a small patch, you can help things along next time by gently
tapping each tassel early in the morning so that the pollen falls on freshly
emerged silk. The air must be completely still around the stalk or you/ll
waste your precious pollen.
On 25 Sep 2006 13:48:48 -0700, " email@example.com"
I try for plants 10-12 inches apart and 36 inch rows. I like
even a tad wider rows sometimes (40 inches) so eventual
weeding and watering is easier. Usually I plant at least 4
rows maybe 30 feet long.
Corn is a heavier feeder and anything too close together
runs the risk of becoming stunted. There aren't too many
farmers that plant rows less than ~28 inches. Everything
(soil, rain, sun, nitrogen...) has to be perfect for narrow
rows to work well.
*** I am in Zone 6 and we do not get much wind as I am on the protected
(from wind) side of a hill, How do the plants pollinate if so far
apart?, 10 -12 inches between the plants, they *might* touch leaf
tips... Doesn't the pollen need to fall between the leaves and stalk
to form the ear of corn ? How many ears per plant do you get , I had
3 - 5 per plant, they were just small and hardly kerneled at all!
My plants reached the target height... does stunted refer to another
factor of the plant? More leaved perhaps? Is color of the plant an
indicator, it was medium / dark green...
Grasping at straws , this is the 2nd year growing corn , last year was
worse, the plants were midgets and the ears of corn were not present !
So, I am improving, but the worry over these plants is too much ! haha,
I thought corn was one of those grow it an forget about it crops!
Thanks for any help!
The problem you/re having is poor pollenation. The pollen must come in
contact with the silk to make kernels.
My suggestion was and still is to gently tap the tassels after the silk
emerges when the air is still. The pollen will fall on the silk and you/ll
get a nice crop.
I have never seen 5 ears that amounted to anything on any
type of corn (actually I've never seen 5 ears on any type of
corn). Even the field corn hybrids rarely have more than
three. Good field corn with 3 ears would probably be 12 to
14 foot tall and very, very happy with its soil, watering,
To tell you the truth I can't say I have ever given much
thought to pollination. I do realize/know about the
mechanics to it, but I can't say I have ever seen a
significant problem. We do get a decent amount of wind here
Last year the sweet corn got 5-6 feet tall and usually two,
but sometimes only one ear per stalk. The ears are 6-10
inches long. I actually had 6 rows spaced 40 inches wide and
maybe 25 feet long. I didn't grow any this year, but would
have only planted 4 rows if I had. Remember too that sweet
corn is all about flavor. Flavor will trump all other
features. The little bit of field corn I grow always makes
the sweet corn look like it is sickly. Most of the ears fill
out pretty well though. I do get a few ears that don't.
Nothing too significant in my opinion.
I plant some field corn to feed birds and other critters
(planted ~100 feet away from the sweet). The seed came from
a local farmer that didn't get planted the year before (old
seed, probably a "Crows" hybrid). I still had plenty of ears
left from last season so I didn't plant any this year. Last
year I had 8 rows 40 inch width and they were ~30 feet long.
It was a very dry summer and the field corn didn't get any
supplemental watering like the sweet did. It grew 8-10 feet
tall, mostly two 8-12 inch ears, sometimes one or three
I still think you have your corn spaced too close together.
Another thing too, when it gets to be several feet tall,
take a hoe and mound up the soil a bit around each stalk.
This will help support the stalk and give the top whorl of
new roots forming a bit of help reaching the soil. In the
good-old-days farmers used to try to make their last pass
cultivating corn in a higher gear in hopes of flinging dirt
up and around the stalks for a mounding effect. I haven't
seen anyone out cultivating corn now for years...
If you have the room try planting some both ways and see
which does better in a given year. The weather (hot, cold,
rainy, dry) has so much to do with it that only a direct
comparison in the same year with the same variety will make
for a good diagnosis.
Write me back next year and tell how it came out :)
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