How do you water corn?

zephyrayMay 30, 2009

This sounds like a dumb question but I can't find an answer anywhere in gardenweb or the web in general (with the exception of a one sentence comment not to water the tassles). The problem is every year that we've grow corn we get nothing back. I figured it was a pollination problem and tried hand pollinating but no luck. I also noticed that the tassles seem to get sort of glommed together. For convenience sake we overhead water, and it's not caused a problem for other veges or fruit, but I'm thinking that maybe the sprinkler is washing the pollen off the tassles. Still I did see pollen coming off the tassles last year (not a lot) even though we were overhead watering so I don't know. By the way the corn is in a block of about 4'x4'. Do we need to put up a screen to block the corn from the sprinkler and water by hand or install a drip line? I'm wondering how those with successful corn plantings water...

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zephyray

By the way we have overhead watered till now (when I'm beginning to see tassles) and the stalks look great. Also, about drip lines, I would find it hard to believe that drip is the way to go when you consider that in corn growing regions like Iowa you can see mile after endless mile of corn growing. Setting up and maintaining drip lines for those operations would seem a gargantuan chore. So how are they watering their corn?

    Bookmark   May 30, 2009 at 9:29PM
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weirdtrev

Plant more corn. I am sure the problem is pollination, getting good pollination on small blocks of corn is quite challenging. Overhead watering shouldn't be a problem and from what I have seen should be helpful. I've noticed that the leaves of the corn are shaped in such a way to funnel running water (or piles of pollen) right over the tassels. I suspect you aren't pollinating at the right time. I hand pollinate right as the tassels are starting to come out (only around an inch). Each corn plant has lots of pollen you should be able to see a heavy dusting of pollen falling as you pollinate. Sometimes there are even just piles of pollen sitting on the stalks in the leaf axils, I gather that and put it on the tassels as well. I wish I had pictures to show you what I mean, but I don't. Overhead watering is fine pollen cannot be washed off the tassels once it is attached.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2009 at 9:58PM
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paulc_gardener

Corn does not put out pollen untill the tassel is 8 to 10 tall. It's simple to water that small patch. Use a soaker hose and wind around your patch. Or, simply lay your garden hose on the ground and flood the area If it's too wet to walk in, then use a stick to shake the pollen off.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 5:56AM
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weirdtrev

Oops! Sorry everywhere I said tassels I meant silk. That should make more sense now :)

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 9:27AM
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zephyray

Thanks. I also mispoke I think. I meant that the silks seem to get stuck together and look kind of withered. Is that normal or is it caused by the overhead watering? Anyway, I just went out and actually measured the area planted with corn. It's 5'x5'1/2. A bit bigger than the 4'x4' I originally said. I'd like to try the hose method of watering. The problem will be shielding the corn from the overhead sprinkler. I'd still like to know how the big boys do it. And how the experts here do it. Maybe watering overhead for the first growth until tassle and then switching to ground watering is best...

The next question has to do with hand pollinating. I tried the shake the pollen in a paper bag then use a kid's paint brush method last year. But that didn't do anything. I've also heard of cutting off a tassle and then touching it on the silks. Would I touch one tassle on the silks of all the corn plants or just the actual plant it's growing on?

We actually came close to not planting corn this year because of our lack of success with it so far.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 11:55AM
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naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)

Around here the farmers rely on rain and wind to take care of their corn. Guess that would be overhead watering :)

I gentley shake my corn plants and when I notice pollen being released I pick parts of tassels from several plants. Then I use them like a feather duster to go over the silk of several ears. I'll repeat this a few times and then repeat it a few other days during the next week. It gives well filled ears in small plots.

How often are you watering? Are you trying to pollinate when the tassels or silk are still wet from watering or dew? I think it should be done when the plants are dry. If corn is watered well it should be able to go without additional water for several days.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 9:53PM
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cyrus_gardner(8)

Generally, I prefer watering all garden plants from ground, no sprinkler. I think that sprinkler watering will wash away the pollins and also the plants root system will become lazy. Water them without wetting the top and water thoroughly and less frequently. This way the roots work their way down to get the moisture they want and less likely they will wilt because of drying the top layer of the soil. Corn is the same. Dry pollins have a better chance to polinate tha wet and washed away ones. This is the reason your tomatoes, egplants won't produce as much fruit when there is lots of rain.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 10:16PM
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lazyhat

I notice when it rains, water builds up inside the corn. You know how the leaf is rolled in a hollow cylinder shape. I wonder if corn does that to store water?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 11:26PM
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zephyray

Wow, no consensus on how to water corn? I'd have thought that people would have come up with a regular procedure by now.

I've been watering about once a day. The reason is because it's been getting hot and dry where I'm at and there are other plants in the garden that also need to be watered.

About the pollination method, I'm getting the idea that the tassle as feather duster idea might be best.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 1:47AM
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takadi(7)

deeply once a week so they can develop roots

    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 2:06AM
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iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)

Corn is a grass. Barring drought, after the seed growth is established I let God do the watering.

The problem with watering anything via sprinkler is that different plants require different amounts of water. Corn, like other grasses, is tough and hardy. It can send roots deep in search of what it needs.

I'm not a corn expert, but some plants will respond to being pampered too much by growing lots and lots of leaves and never putting out much fruit. I don't know if corn's like that, but if you're watering corn as often as you're watering thirsty plants like peppers and greens you're probably watering it too much.

I've heard it all my life from every source, starting with my father and uncle when I was a little girl, if you want the corn pollinated you have to have a big enough block. And when they paced out "big enough" it was 15-20 feet in both directions. :-)

My own 3 Sisters area, planted in the only possible place in my undersized yard, is marginal -- only 12 X 20.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 6:40AM
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zephyray

Though I'm not really confident that my question was definitively answered, I want to thank the people here for taking the time to offer their comments. We've decided to hand water while the corn is in the flowering stage. At least for now.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2009 at 12:02PM
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hobbiest

Have you always grown your corn in as small an area as you stated? 4x4 ft? Never had a problem with mine doing what yours has. I have watered overhead with a hose, lawn sprinkler, etc. while I had tassels flowering. Never had a problem. My patch is usually at least 12 x12 ft. though. Maybe it is because you are not planting enough corn so that the plants can get good pollination. Sounds reasonable. Your plants are out of doors right? This isn`t in a greenhouse or anything enclosed is it?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 10:26AM
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idaho_gardener

Where I live (Boise, Idaho) it stops raining by the end of June. I flood irrigate my lawn and garden beds. I had a good crop of corn last year, my first year for corn.

I have a 12'x12' plot that I am succession planting in four blocks. The early corn is about knee high. I have been fertilizing it with a fertilizer that contains nitrogen. I hear that corn is a heavy feeder, so I'll be fertilizing mine all season long to make sure I get a good crop.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 1:59AM
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zephyray

Hobbiest, that might be it. I measured and our block is 5'x 5 1/2'. We'll probably try hand pollination with a cut tassle. Idaho gardener, I've been fertilizing this year with fish emulsion. This is the first year I fertilized. The stalks are robust, and probaby between knee and waist high right now.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 11:55AM
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dreynolds_spiritenergyllc_com

WE ARE GROWING CORN THIS YEAR.WE WORKED IN CALIFORNIA FOR MANY YEARS AND THE COMMERCIAL GROWERS THERE FLOOD THE ROWS. IN TEXAS WHERE WE LIVE, THE COMMERCIAL GROWERS THAT DON'T SOLELY RELY ON RAIN PLANT THEIR CORN IN A BIG CIRCLE AND HAVE WATERING SYSTEMS THAT ROTATE AROUND IN A HUGE CIRCLE AND WATER FROM THE TOP. I GUESS BOTH METHODS WORK.I TALKED WITH OUR LOCAL NURSERYMAN ABOUT WATERING. HE TOLD ME THAT WHEN THE CORN STARTS TO TASSEL IT REALLY LIKES A LOT OF FERTILIZER AND WATER. I TOOK HIS ADVICE AND OURS IS DOING GREAT. IT IS ABOUT 6' TALL AND IS BEAUTIFUL. WE FLOOD THE ROWS SO AS NOT TO HAVE SO MUCH EVAPORATION AND FERTILIZE ABOUT EVERY TWO WEEKS.WE HAVE A LOT OF WIND SO THAT TAKES CARE 0F POLLINATION.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2011 at 5:15PM
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