Sweet Corn Summary and Links

August 27, 2014



My go-to meal for the last three weeks.  The sweet corn was raised without herbicides or pesticides.  It’s a wonderful experience when a successful experiment results in such good eats.

I planted a rye cover crop last fall, rotovated twice in the spring, rotary hoed twice after planting, and cultivated twice, keeping the corn ahead of the weeds long enough to produce a good ear of corn, even though the weeds are thriving now.

The last time I tried to raise sweet corn without herbicides was a disaster, with the weeds getting ahead of the corn, resulting in production losses.  That time I only chisel plowed, disced, and cultivated once.

My plan for next year is to use the same protocol as this year, except possibly not using the rye cover crop.  That may prove to be a mistake as the rye has alleopathic properties.

I wonder if I should be looking at weeds differently.  Instead of a problem to overcome, maybe I should consider them as a volunteer crop.  Instead of weeding, maybe I should be harvesting.

Tama Matsuoka Wong is a businessperson who has taken her interest in wild edibles to a new level.  She partners with restaurants to put wild edibles on the menu.  Her website is  Meadows and More.  Discovering the way Ms. Wong approaches wild edibles is invigorating my thinking about weeds.

Finally, while I’ve spent the summer thinking about sweet corn, I wonder how much corn I’m getting from other sources.  “Children of the Corn” is an interesting infograph if you’ve ever wondered about the corn industry.

The one problem I have with the infograph is when they talk about water usage.  Sure, corn uses water, but it gets cycled back into the atmosphere.  It’s not like it’s being used up, never to be seen again.

Comment if you have any thoughts about these topics.

Kentucky Blue Pole Beans

August 5, 2014



The jungle above is what happens when you plant pumpkins too close to pole beans.  I planted Kentucky Blue Pole Beans, my first try with pole beans as I never thought I wanted to mess with a fence.  But it turns out they weren’t much work, and grow well here.

I planted them in a row and after they were up and growing, I weeded and mulched with loose hay chaff from the barn.  Then I put a five-foot high fence right beside them.  They took to the fence rapidly and would have grown higher if my fence had been taller.

They were doing very well until the pumpkins, which were planted three and six feet away, made there way over to the fence and started climbing.  All the shade from the pumpkins may have hurt yield, but it doesn’t matter now as the sweet corn is ready.  We ate green beans every day, but now I realize they were just a place-holder on my plate until the sweet corn was ready.

Sweet Corn Planting Mistake

July 28, 2014



I made a rookie-type mistake planting my sweet corn.  After planting my Dad’s field corn, I changed the population from 30,000 plants per acre down to 20,000 plants per acre, and I cleaned out each of the four seed hoppers in my John Deere 7200 planter.

I’ve owned this corn planter for over five years, and I’ve cleaned out the hoppers the same way every time, (dumping them upside down several times), but this time one of the hoppers had quite a bit of corn stuck down inside where I couldn’t see it.  Furthermore, when I started planting, that row was plugged and corn was not coming out.  Luckily, the monitor tells me when a row isn’t planting, so I wouldn’t have planted the whole field with a missing row.

I unplugged the row and finished planting the whole field, stopping once to add another variety of sweet corn.  I planted two varieties this year, both supersweet, but with different maturities.  I noticed there was more corn in the second hopper, but figured that must have been because it didn’t plant that one time across the field.

Fast-forward to a couple of months later.  I noticed that the rows of corn were developing differently, but figured that must have been the difference in variety.  Then we had a summer storm with strong winds.  Most of the corn was bent over from the strong wind, but some of the rows were not affected.  I still figured it was due to varietel difference.

Finally, when the corn started tasseling, with the taller rows not tasseling, a light bulb went on and I realized what had happened.  The tall rows were my Dad’s field corn.  The next thought I had was, “Oh no, my sweet corn is ruined.”  You see, supersweet corn needs to be isolated from other types of corn or the sugar in it turns to starch and it tastes terrible.  This happened once with our sweet corn when I was a kid, and it was inedible.

But then I realized that the sweet corn was tasseling, but the field corn was not.  So if the sweet corn could pollinate before the sweet corn tasseled, I would be fine.  I could have detasseled all the field corn to be safe, but you know me, my curiosity comes before my success.  So now we wait and see.

Next year I know exactly what I will do differently.  I’m going to upend each hopper, removing all the visible corn.  Then I will put the planter in the ground somewhere out of the way, and plant any remaining seeds until the monitor tells me each row is empty.

On a side note, you can see the pumpkin and squash is growing gangbusters.  In the foreground you can see a new purchase I made: Racoon Net from Premier fence.  The three-strand electric fence I always made in the past helped, but didn’t completely keep the raccoons out of the sweet corn.  I’m hoping this netting works better, and I’ll try to remember to let you know how it does.

Jude Becker’s Philosophy

September 25, 2011

I cut the spring garden peas.  They regrew and flowered.  I don’t recall the flowers being this pretty in the spring.


“Do you ever see piles of junk around a winery?” Jude Becker asked.


“And why not?  Because the wine people decided that a visit to their farm would be a wonderful part of the wine experience.  That’s what I want to do here.”

We stood in the loft of his remodeled barn, surrounded by his Dad’s beautiful wood projects, including a depiction of the twelve apostles, commissioned by a church but never paid for.  We leaned against the bar.

“Why can’t pork be the same as wine?  This is where I want to have tastings.”

I thought about what Jude said, and I realize he’s right.  Pork should have more prestige than wine.  Somehow we’ve commoditized this animal, and took away anything special, anything which could enrich our life rather than just sustain it.  And in so doing, we’ve commoditized the farmer.

Jude strives to differentiate his pork from commodity pork.  Why shouldn’t his pork be different from mine also?  We could celebrate the terroir of pork.  We could celebrate the seasons.  We could celebrate the in-season feeds.

Citygirlfriend grew celery this year.  It was dense, dark-green, and full of flavor.  I raved, “This is nutrient-dense celery.  I never want to eat store-bought celery again.”

I know all of this sounds artisanal, and it is.  I’m going further down the artisanal road, and probably won’t be able to ever return to commodity food  production.  So be it, I’m not a commodity, why should my food be?

Our Goat-Proof Garden

June 6, 2011

Our garden.  If gardening was a sport, Citygirlfriend would be tested for performance-enhancing drugs.   Click to see her garden last year.

Our garden is actually a collaborative effort.  She has  lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes.  The boys and I have potatoes, peas, radishes, beets.

We had to put up a two-strand electric fence, powered by a battery fence charger, to keep the goats out.  It’s probably not true that goats will eat anything, but they will try anything, and take seconds and thirds of stuff they like.

What goats really like is to browse trees and bushes.  They will take every advantage to reach a little higher.

Look at how they pruned the cherry tree, pictured below, as far as they could reach.  Using livestock for landscaping has probably been practiced  forever, but it’s experiencing something of a resurgence.  I see why.

Citygirlfriend’s Garden

April 29, 2010

This is Citygirlfriend’s garden.  She and Gameboy planted it in twenty minutes. 

It is one foot wide by three feet long.  It includes Carrot, Cucumber, Lettuce, Mesculun, Pepper, Radish, and Tomato.  Hundreds of seeds were deposited from Gameboy’s hand to the loosened soil with a shotgun delivery.

My job was to keep Gameboy out of the Stinging Nettle.

Citygirlfriend asked me what I thought.

“I think we’re raising a family, not a garden.”

Pruning to Improve Fruit Production

April 8, 2010

John 15:1-2  Jesus speaking.  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Luke 6: 43-45  Jesus speaking.  “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.  People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.  The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

I’m 41 years old and I’m pruning, for the first time in my life.  I freely admit that I’m not sure what I’m doing; but I’m glad to be doing it.

I may be pruning too much or incorrectly; but so little fruit was produced, I no longer feel much pressure.

I like that success will be measured by the fruit that is produced.


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