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Corn and Nutrition

Growing Corn

Special Notes About Growing Corn

Before talking about growing corn, one has to understand the difference between corn and many other vegetables. In most cases, unless you are saving seeds, it doesn't matter if one cultivar of vegetable cross pollinates with another. And Eight Ball zucchini plant with still produce round, green fruits even if it is pollinated by a yellow zucchini - the only place the mix is expressed is in the seed - and all bets are off as to what that seed will produce. In corn, however, the 'fruit' is the seed, and this becomes one of the critical factors in determining how one goes about growing corn. The other critical factor is that corn is wind pollinated, and even a distance of miles might not prevent the contamination of a field of corn. For example, a stand of sweet corn could well be contaminated with field corn, popcorn, or GMO corn that is planted several miles away. Planting corn in blocks or groups of the same type helps to maximize the chance that the corn will be pollinated by its close neighbors, and that the kernels will come "true to type." So does planting the same type at the same time - helping to ensure that the plants will all be shedding pollen and accepting pollen at the same time.

When To Plant

Corn is a warm season plant and will not germinate well or at all if the soil is too cold and wet. Often times the seeds will just mold and rot under these conditions; therefore, it is best to wait until all chance of frost has past and the soil temperatures are above 60°F.

Where To Plant

Corn is a sun-lover and grows best in full sun. Given a steady supply of water, it will even flourish under the desert rays.

Feeding Corn

Corn is a heavy feeder. While corn often does not compete well with weeds, an understory of clover or other legume may be beneficial. Corn will benefit from compost, compost tea, and other organic fertilizers throughout the growing season.

Weeds & Watering

Corn should receive about 1" of water a week, either by rain or irrigation. It is especially important to keep corn watered when the stalks begin to tassel and when the ears of corn begin to grow. One way to help avoid weeds and to help keep the soil moist is to mulch well. Young weeds can be snipped close to the ground or can be shallowly hoed in order to avoid disturbing the corn plant's shallow root.

Types of Corn for Self-Sufficient Living

Self-sufficiency might imply that one may wish to save some corn seeds for next year's planting - and that you might not have the time or energy to produce both a sweet corn and a 'field' or livestock corn. One solution is to grow only sweet corn - chickens and hogs are just as happy eating sweet corn as they are eating field corn. Another solution is to grow only field corn - grilled field corn has a much more complex "corny" flavor than sweet corn. These "one variety" solutions may be the best way to get started with corn if you have a very short growing season. If your season is longer, you might get away with 2 corn varieties - one short season and one long season. For example, you might grow a field or flint/grinding corn that matures at 120 days and a sweet corn that matures at 80 days. You would plant each variety out at the same day, with one block of one type in one area and a block of the other type somewhere else. That would generally give you over a month distance in time so that the corn tassels from the two types would "miss" each other, and the kernels will come true to type.

None of the above solutions protects one from stray pollen from your neighbor's corn, however. For eating and livestock feeding, a few kernels of "I don't know from where" corn is not going to hurt anything; however, if one is going to save seed for next year's crop, it makes a difference. If your block of corn plants is 25 x 25 plants (625 plants total), you could let the center 200-250 plants mature their seeds, and then save only the seeds that "look right." Plants in the center would be most likely to be pollinated by its direct neighbors before pollen from other plants could get to them. (Without going too deep into genetics here, corn is susceptible to "genetic depression," so one needs to save the seeds from many plants in order to ensure the strength of the seeds over generations. Seed from 200 or more plants is required by corn.) If it is somehow critical that your corn seed really is uncontaminated, check out the link in the outside resources.

Note: All corn listed below are open pollinated

Variety Name Maturation
Sweet Corn Golden Bantam 85 days
Country Gentleman 90 days
Field or Grinding Corn Painted Mountain 70-90 days
Strawberry Popcorn 100 days
Bloody Butcher 120

Visit the seed catalogs section for sources of open pollinated corn.

See Also


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