Saturday, August 22, 2009

sweet corn harvest - a mixed bag

Sometimes you think everyone knows what you know, y'know?
When I said something to a friend about hand pollinating my sweet corn, she was surprised.
I explained that, unless you had a block of sweet corn (not just one or two long rows),
the corn kernels might not all get pollinated, and you would have a spotty ear of corn.
Definitely NOT good eating.You can see there are some pollination issues with the top ear of corn,
but the bottom ear definitely missed some pollination.
Each kernel of corn has a silk attached to it, and needs to be pollinated,
or it won't develop.
The pollen comes from the tassels at the top of the corn stalk.
According to the University of Florida's extension article about hand-pollinating garden vegetable crops:
"Two methods of pollen transfer may be used with corn.
Cut an entire tassel, and use it as a wand, shaking pollen grains (dust) onto the silks. Alternatively, strip the tassel and deposit the pollen from the anthers directly onto the silks. Either way, the pollen is transferred.
Be thorough when dusting the pollen onto the silks,
so chances for a bountiful harvest are increased."

I usually collect pollen by running my hand up the tassels, then sprinkle it on the silks protruding from the corn that is developing.

Here is some of the sweet corn that did get fully pollinated.
And it was delicious, too!

A few other sweet corn growing tips:

Corn needs lots of nitrogen, so don't skimp on fertilizing. Don’t plant your seeds too close together, and hand pollinate.
Corn plants tend to have shallow roots, so putting some soil at the base for support can help .
Use the stalks afterwards for fall/Halloween decorations!


Lynne's Somewhat Invented Life said...

This is the FIRST time I have heard this. People always say you have to have a bunch of corn all together to polinate. How clever, doing it by hand!

You're my gardening hero.

donna said...

What a good little pollinator you are. I found the information very interesting and enjoyed the photos you included to illustrate your point.

Linda said...

Good to know. I've had this problem the last couple years and knew what caused it but didn't know exactly how to solve it other than plant more corn. Thanks for the information.

Rosey Pollen said...

I like using the stalks for decorations, even if my ears of corn don't do what they are supposed to. This year, I did not have room for corn and I will miss my Halloween decorations!
Thanks for the pollination tip.

Lindalou said...

Great information. Thanks for sharing.

NephiGoodson said...

Great description of corn pollination by hand, O Great Mistress of the Garden! I learned a lot that I either never knew or had forgotten. (If you've forgotten something, does it really matter whether you ever knew it before? Does that mean we could spend eternity is less about learning more things and more about increasing our capacity to remember?)

Muum said...

thanks for everyone's comments, ESP. you, NephiGoodson (bats eyelashes) . Yep, I'm flirting here, 'cause he's a hottie. (and my DH of 33 years)

Linda said...

I mentioned you and your blog today over at Gardening Notebook. I linked to this post because I think it's great information and would be a great help to many gardeners. Have a great day.

Muum said...

thanks for the mention, Linda!