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Can I grow corn in a SFG?

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Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  backyard Jeff on 1/5/2011, 11:47 am

Can I grow corn in a SFG? is 6" ok for the roots and will it stay standing? Or do I need to build it up more? If so how much? I know someone on this forum had done it. Thanks!

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  boffer on 1/5/2011, 12:03 pm

Hi, Welcome to the forum.

Corn will grow well in six inches of Mel's Mix. They don't have deep roots so going deeper won't help. I have a corn patch that is 8x25, well-composted-not MM, and I have had stalks fall over in that. Plan on supporting your corn if it's a taller variety.

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Thanks

Post  backyard Jeff on 1/5/2011, 12:13 pm

Thanks for that answer. I'm looking forward to giving it a try. I've never grown corn but have wanted to give it a try. Thanks a ton!

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  Chopper on 1/5/2011, 4:24 pm

It was my favorite crop last year. I gave it its own 4X4 box and also planted beans with it. Not sure I would do that again, but they both produced a lot.

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  LaFee on 1/5/2011, 4:32 pm

I had strong healthy stalks in my 6" deep boxes...I lost it all to smut, but that wasn't the fault of the Mel's Mix.

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  Megan on 1/5/2011, 6:11 pm

Hi Jeff, welcome to the forum! glad you\'re here

I grew corn last year also and it grew fine (10 feet+) in 4-5" of Mix. (I didn't get much of a harvest, but that's another story.) Corn roots always hump out of the soil a little bit right next to the stalk, when the plants start getting big. That is completely normal no matter how deep your soil is, so don't be worried about not having enough soil if you notice that.

The one thing you will need to do is allow it enough width. The heirloom corns need more elbow room than the newer varieties (one per square, maybe 2 at most, for the heirlooms) because they tend to be bushier. Boffer has some good pictures, I think, of the roots.

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thanks all

Post  backyard Jeff on 1/5/2011, 6:23 pm

Thanks all for the answers. Im ready to grow some corn. I've thought about it for years, but never have. But this year im giving it a try. If anyone has any more tips I will be thankful!

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 1/5/2011, 7:29 pm

Hey Jeff, welcome aboard.

I would like to add something I heard from a neighbor I would consider "rather experienced" a couple of years ago. Granted, she wasn't an SFG'er, so maybe that makes a difference here.

She told me that you need to plant ALOT of corn to get a decent crop. Corn needs to pollinate itself, and needs room and lots of plants and insects to help. Plan on planting at least 40 plants per bed. And, it will help to get two beds going.

That's what I was basically told. And, that is a lot of space to commit. We did plant 40 plants one year and had fun with it. But, we didn't get very big ears. About 3 inches was all. We considered that a success given what we were told. And, I didn't do anything like add fertilizer (this is before I was an SFG'er) at silk setting time or any of the other "tips" people will tell you regarding corn.

Read up on it. But, believe what you are told here from experienced gardners. They undoubtedly know more than I do. I just wanted to share what I know of corn. And, hope to be refuted if it is easier than what I know so far.

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  Megan on 1/5/2011, 8:01 pm

Corn does well in SFG-type beds (at least the open pollinated types) because the proximity helps it to pollinate itself. I have never heard of insects pollinating corn, unless they were just accidentally knocking the pollen loose. The pollen from the tassels gets down onto the silks and that's how it gets pollinated. The pollen is too big to stick to bees. There is one silk thread for every corn kernel so if you are hand pollinating, you need to be aggressive about it.

You can hope for 1-2 ears per stalk... 3 if you are really lucky and the variety is right. So, yes, you will need to plant a lot of it (and stagger your planting) if you want a serious harvest. I for one don't have enough room for that, but others here do. I planted some just because I wanted to try it. When I was growing up we had fields and fields of the stuff, and it was nice to see old friends again.

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  sfg4uKim on 1/5/2011, 8:07 pm

The problem with planting too much corn all at the same time is that it all must be harvested at once.

Instead what I have done in the past is dedicate a whole 2 x 2 box to corn. It's a little confusing so I hope this makes sense. You can plant 4 corn plants per square foot.

The first week I plant the back row of the 2 back squares (4 plants total which can produce 4-8 ears)
The second week I plant the front row of the 2 back squares.
The third week I plant the back row of the front squares.
The fourth week I plant the front row of the front squares.

I think this year I might try a 2 x 3 box and plant for 6 weeks and still maintain a reasonable weekly harvest for hubby & I.

The reason for this is that each successive row can be used to more easily pollinate the previous week's row. The very front row may or may not pollinate well.

Hope this helps,
Kim

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  Megan on 1/5/2011, 8:19 pm

ksroman wrote:You can plant 4 corn plants per square foot.

Just to clarify... that spacing works for modern corn. Old/heirloom corn needs more space.

Thanks for the info, Kim, I love your staggering idea! I don't know if I'll be able to start a corn box this year, but you've got me drooling after one.

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  sfg4uKim on 1/5/2011, 8:24 pm

I just received my seeds a few days ago . . . including a packet of Silver Queen Corn!

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 1/6/2011, 9:14 am

I may give corn another go in 2012. Thanks for the correction of what I had heard. And, I figured as much with the close proximity being beneficial to pollenation.

I had also heard somewhere else to plant two varieties for better pollination. Any truth or experience with that idea?

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  Lavender Debs on 1/6/2011, 9:35 am

I'm going to be the dark cloud in this pretty thread.

Yes, you can plant corn in SFG and it will grow pretty stalks. Corn needs a crowd (without being overly crowded) to make pretty ears. The silk on the ears and the pollen on top of the stock mature at about the same time. The pollen drops from the top of the stalk to the silk. As I understand it each kernel has a thread of corn silk. Each silk needs to be touched by pollen (from different stalks) to fill out the kernel. If you have seen ears of corn that look like they might not have been ready because some of the kernels were plump and ready and some were small, white, immature kernels, it is because the silk for those kernels did not get sufficient pollen. I have heard of small gardeners cutting off the pollen and shaking it over the silk but have no idea how that worked for them.

Corn is planted in "blocks" (or fields if you are big time). It seems like a standard SFG should work for corn but traditionally corn wants a larger block or grouping to grow good ears instead of just good fall decorations. In my early days of gardening I kept a 15x25 foot block just for corn and rotated on a three year cycle to get good corn. Having said that, you should know up front that I am only on my 2nd year of SFG. Corn is about the only veggie I have not wanted to try because of space, but you should give it a try! The person who said that they succession grow in 2x2 squares sounds encouraging! I did not know that you could get full plump ears from that small of a block unless there were larger corn blocks with wind born pollen growing nearby. That is kewl!

I've seen pics of SFG's with a 4' PVC rail on the parameter of the bed. The rail is supposed to help keep the stalks standing in the wind. If I were to grow corn in a SFG I would add one of those.

There is so much good advice and experience on this board, and seed likes to do what it was created to do, nothing is impossible. Stick around, you could have fresh cobs by year’s end. Then you can help the next corn lover.

Deborah....with a corny hello.

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  Lavender Debs on 1/6/2011, 9:44 am

@BackyardBirdGardner wrote:snip.....I had also heard somewhere else to plant two varieties for better pollination. Any truth or experience with that idea?
That is true with fruit trees, but it doesn't matter with corn. In fact, if you are saving seed and want to keep the saved seed true to whatever it is (like silver queen), you need to protect it from airborne pollen of other types of corn. (does that make sense?)

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  Squat_Johnson on 1/6/2011, 11:56 am

I have tried to grow corn in SFG, but the raccoons eat more than I do. The only time it worked, I put wire fence around and over it. The corn grew through the fence's roof. It worked, but I did have scrawny ears due to the pollination issue.

I have been buying corn at the Farmer's market the past two years. At $3 a dozen, it's better for my blood pressure than fighting with raccoons and losing.

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Re: Can I grow corn in a SFG?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 1/6/2011, 3:01 pm

Makes great sense, Debs. Thank you.

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Corn

Post  ander217 on 1/7/2011, 10:20 am

Welcome to the forum, Jeff. As others have said, pollination will be the clue to getting a good corn crop, no matter how you plant it.

When corn forms tassels at the top, you will soon see the "flowers" hanging from it - they look like grains of wheat clinging to the tassels. You know then the pollen is forming. Corn pollen is really too small to see, but it scatters by the wind or by shaking the plant. One corn plant is able to pollinate itself theoretically, but the leaves usually catch it before it can reach the silks of the ear. Therefore pollen from a nearby stalk is usually required. I always try to plant a minimum of 16 plants at one time - four across and four down in a block so that plenty of pollen is in the air around all the plants. I prefer planting one per square foot, but I usually plant large varieties.

Cross-pollination from another variety is not wanted because if I understand correctly, corn is one plant which will actually reflect cross pollination in this year's crop because the part we eat is the seed for next year. So if you planted yellow corn and white corn near each other you might end up with ears of mixed yellow and white kernels on each plant.

Pollination is also affected by temperature. My corn crop failed this year, I believe, due to the intense heat wave we experienced just as the pollen was forming. It literally cooks the pollen, making it sterile. Some people mist their plants during heat waves to help keep them cooler, but I let mine go, and as a result we got only a few paltry ears that weren't filled out.

Another problem with corn is that sometimes the timing gets off, and the pollen is produced before the silks are ready to receive it. Agronomists are trying to figure out why this is happening. I noticed that problem occurring with my Hickory King corn last summer. I was only able to catch the last of the pollination cycle for my late-producing silks on the field corn.

I love fresh corn, so I will keep trying for a better crop. (Please don't tell the raccoons.)

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