Ghostwood Farm

Let’s go to beds, I: The trouble with corn.
May 14, 2012, 5:02 pm
Filed under: Farming, Veggies

I’m thinking a lot about the beds these days. The farm beds, that is, not the beds inside the house. Well, I’m thinking a lot about MY bed, too, but that’s another issue.

The farm is planted in beds. Most of the beds to this point (12 total) are four feet wide by 100 feet long. The first four run north-south, the rest run east-west. This is because as I planned last year’s beds, I realized that tall plants in north-south beds have the potential to shade shorter plants in adjacent beds. So I plant short stuff there. Lesson learned.

One of the four foot, N-S beds is planted to asparagus (250 plants). Asparagus is a long-lived perennial (which means it comes back year after year), so it needs to be in an out of the way spot. It was my northernmost bed until last fall, when I put in another bed to the north of it (for 250 more asparagus plants, which will be planted next year). However, I couldn’t afford 250 more plants this spring, so I put it in peas to fix a bit of nitrogen, with an eye toward next year.

Many people use beds that are four feet wide, so that the entire bed can be weeded, harvested, cultivated, etc. from one side, without having to walk in them. However, last year I put in an 8-foot bed for corn, because if corn isn’t planted densely enough, it won’t get fully pollinated, and the ears won’t fill out entirely. Well, my 8-foot bed was not wide enough. The field corn did not fill out, some of the ears remaining completely devoid of kernels.

The other contributing factor to the corn problem is that I planted it in the Native American style–corn, beans, and squash planted in hills together. This means that there were only 4 or 5 corn plants across the bed–not enough to ensure proper pollination. The field and sweet corn did poorly, though the popcorn did okay.

This year I’ve planted over half a pound of popcorn seed, plus two field corns and two sweet corns. I’ve planted them in 8-foot beds, 8 inches apart in rows 12 inches apart. I expect much better pollination this year. In addition, the squash will get its own beds this year, though I think I will be planting pole beans among the corn to reduce my trellising effort (the beans climb the corn stalks).

You want some of this corn meal, don't you?

You want some of this corn meal, don’t you? Green cornbread? Green tortillas? Nice!

I’ll post more later on additional bed concerns.

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