Corn, in a very small garden area.

nokiFebruary 6, 2011

Any tips on growing corn in a very small area, intensive gardening? 4 feet by 4 feet lets say, or 3 X 5, in a block.

Just for my personal amusement, I would be happy to get a dozen edible ears, to be eaten right after they are picked. Don't want to waste the space if it's unlikely to get much production. Bought some 'Sugar Dots' seed.

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starwoodfarm

Growing in a block is best for pollination.

Corn pollination info:

Corn relies on the wind for pollination. Corn pollen is produced in the tassel at the top of each stalk. When the wind shakes the plant, pollen fall from the tassels onto the silks, which are the plants female flowers. Each silk that is pollinated results in a kernel of corn developing on that ear. To provide this maximum wind pollination in an area, corn should be planted in blocks rather that in long straight rows.

Pollen of a given plant rarely fertilizes the silks of the same plant. Its been reported that s 97% or more of the kernels produced by each plant are pollinated by other plants in the field. Because wind can carry pollen up to a mile or more, pollen from one variety can pollinate anther variety unless there is great distance between the plants or unless your variety choices are ones that do not pollinate at the same time. Since corn is a seed, it may affect the flavor of the cross-breed.

The amount of pollen is rarely a cause of poor kernel set. Each tassel contains from 2 to 5 million pollen grains which translates to 2,000 to 5,000 pollen grains produced for each silk of the ear shoot. Shortages of pollen are usually only a problem under conditions of extreme heat and drought. Poor seed set is more often associated with poor timing of pollen shed with silk emergence (silks emerging after pollen shed). Under good conditions, all silks will emerge and be ready for pollination within 3 to 5 days and this usually provides adequate time for all silks to be pollinated before pollen shed ceases.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pollination info

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 2:38PM
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fusion_power

The problem with a very small area is that you have to have extremely fertile soil and no matter what you do, sunlight is reduced in the middle. You could grow up to a dozen plants in a 3X5 area if you do the work to amend the soil.

DarJones

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 2:41PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

In my view corn in a small garden is not worth the space, water, energy expenditure. I suggest you will only do it once.

Dan

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 8:51PM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

Hi Noki,

I've done 4x4 foot blocks of corn with good success and good pollination, but only pop and dent corn, not sweet. I just counted my corn ears and I had more that 30 ears of pop from a 4x4 (I ate a bunch, so maybe 35-40 ears) and 12 ears of dent from a 4x4 (but I remember losing some ears to mold - big rain year, so production was higher than 12).

If you are not looking for a ton, just that fresh off the plant taste, I would try it. I did 1 plant per square foot, in the 4x4 block - you need the block arrangement for good pollination. I also would shake the corn when the pollen was present to help pollination. My garden in organic and my soil is very good, so I'm sure that helped with production. If you want to double the use of the space, grow dried beans up the stalks. I plant two beans on each side of the corn (about 4 inches away) when the corn is 6-12 inches tall. Cherokee Trail of Tears is a really good corn bean.

Good luck and happy gardening,
Bellatrix

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 11:06PM
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ristau5741(6)

I grew corn successfully at 1'x1' spacing, used
an old floor tile as a spacer, put 1 seed at each corner.

you'll need a minimum of 25 plants to get proper pollination.
but you can grow a lot in a very small space.

lots of nitrogen, too..

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 2:40PM
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heirloomjunkie(5a)

Bella, can you tell me more about the beans and corn growing together? I want to try this this year as I am limited on space. I am growing corn in an 8x4 block, on one end of my plot, and had originally picked out bush beans. I am guessing this will have to be switched to pole beans, but that's okay. How many bean plants can go in this four foot line against the corn? What's the spacing like?

Kim

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 9:20PM
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spiced_ham(z5 OH)

I was happy with my results in a small area last year. Three rows about a foot apart with corn every 6-8 inches along the row. Total area was about 4" x 8". The soil was regular dirt with a little extra nitrogen fertilizer when the plants were knee high. Even watering was important to keep up the growth.

As for better pollination, you can break off a tassel and shake it over the silks, and/or shake the stalks on calm days to make a good pollen cloud.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 10:06PM
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bluebirdie(Z8 SF E Bay)

I grew corn in a small area by planting close together, adding manure weekly, giving lots of water, and providing manual pollination. Due to the work and resource required, it was not a good return on investment for my garden despite each plant producing 2-3 ears. I don't think I will grow corn this year.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 12:47PM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

Hi Kim -

I only plant in blocks, not rows, so I'm not sure on the spacing. Conservatively, I would plant one bean, every other corn (well, maybe every corn, I tend to push things). I would plant 4 inches away from the corn, into the open row space, waiting until the corn is 6-12 inches high. Dent corn supports beans better than sweet, but my popcorn had pretty wimpy stalks and did just fine. I had good success with the dried pole beans Cherokee Trail of Tears and Afrikanische Rote beans. Hidatsa shield bean did not grow up the corn well.

Hope that helps,
Bellatrix

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 12:43PM
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heirloomjunkie(5a)

thanks, bella!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 12:53PM
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noki

So what type of Corn would be best for a small plot.
Su? Se? Se+? Sh2?

I thought Su would be more vigorous (but more productive?), and since I would eat it immediately the corn would be nice and sweet. But then Se+ is supposed to be "great". Supersweet from the grocery store seems kinda crappy, not sure I want that.

I can baby these plants. I guess I think I can take better care of them than in an open field. Well, I can always try growing corn once.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 8:30PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

The one time I grew corn, it all got ripe at one time! That doesn't work with only 2 people in the house!
Corn season gives us corn for about .25 per ear, so I'm not very excited about growing it again.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 9:27PM
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fusion_power

If you are a new gardener, I would suggest se+ corn as the best overall alternative. It has the advantages su and a huge boost in sweetness and tenderness.

As for growing corn that ripens all at once, the way you get around that is to plant 3 or 4 varieties with different maturities. Just make sure all the varieties are the same type so pollination is not a problem.

DarJones

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 1:45AM
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jwahlton(9B Kisimee)

Bellatrix

When you mention planting in blocks, what exactly does that mean? Looks like this?:

X X X X
X X X X
X X X X

X X X X
X X X X
X X X X
X X X X

Does it look like that?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 3:54PM
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raisemybeds(SouthernCT)

I have gotten about 12 plants intensively grown in a 3 by 3 bed, and it worked out pretty well but you will only get the 1 or 2 ears per plants. I agree that the space and effort are not justified by the yield but it is fun to see that it can be done - I will not be growing corn this year. Have fun and take pictures if you do go for it, though!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 3:45PM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

jwahlton -

Let's see if I can do this: 4 x 8 foot bed, X is one variety of corn, C is another variety of corn.

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Bellatrix

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 12:34PM
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jwahlton(9B Kisimee)

Perfect, thanks!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 5:16PM
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