Saturday, September 16, 2023

No-till Corn? Absolutely!

Golden Bantam Corn @Equimage® Media
Yes, you can grow corn in a new or well-established no-till garden bed.  We decided to try corn late in this growing season (planted July 5) and so far so good.  We decided on the quick maturing heirloom variety called Golden Bantam and purchased  from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, although it is available through many seed brokers.  Fresh seed germinates in 5-7 days, grows to 5-6 feet in height and each stalk generally produces two nice ears in about 75 days. So far we’re right on target.  

This 4x4 bed was hastily created on a whim from some additional scrap lumber between two established 4x4 beds.  Asparagus is on one side and (this year) indeterminate tomatoes on the other.

So far we have 25 nice ears of corn from roughly 50 plants planted in the 4 seeds per square foot configuration in a 4x4 bed. You may think that this is a bit overcrowded but one thing we’ve learned about our no-till method of gardening is that crowded planting is not much of a problem — especially in a brand new bed.
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We have been feeding regularly with Espoma Organic Chicken Manure and Espoma Garden Tone because corn is a real nitrogen hog.  Legume-based no-till lends itself so well to nitrogen-loving plants because that lower layer of alfalfa is loaded with nitrogen.  The corn plant hits that layer and never looks back.

We did water more often than one might think is necessary (a good soaking 2x a week) and placed a six-inch by six-inch net trellis over the bed horizontally and let the corn grow through 
to help keep the corn plants upright during high wind and blowing rain. This tactic, using 4ft T-post in each corner with the net fastened to the posts with zip ties and a couple of 4ft bamboo poles which help connect the posts on each out side, worked beautifully. As the corn grew, the net was raised. We did thread the newly emerged corn plants through the holes in the netting a st the corn grew.

We also lined the bottom of our experimental bed with 1/2 x 1/2 galvanized hardware cloth to thwart the voles and moles. The wire cloth keeps the hordes  from tunneling into the bed to seek out the golden goodness of sprouting corn kernels and new growth plants that they adore.  We take this step with any bed we create because we had  a serious vole and mole infestation in the past. Learn from our mistakes and prepare for subterranean interlopers. Give them enough time and they will find your precious, emerging corn.

We’ll update as we begin picking (and hopefully eating)  — likely early next week.  Now... get out there and get your hands dirty!

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