Monday, May 17, 2010

Planting corn

We're planting corn today.

Our garden is roughly square, except for a long strip that my husband added along the edge of the orchard. This strip is about 12 feet wide and, I dunno, maybe 150 feet long? Something like that. At any rate, I decided to fill that entire strip with corn and leave the square part of the garden for other vegetables.

We've planted about half so far. I'm watering at one end, and you can see the planting stuff (pads to kneel on, yardsticks, etc.) in the center where we quit.

We grew nonhybrid sweet corn last year. I planted it late and harvested it late (so the corn was past the sweet stage into the starchy stage), but I saved eleven of the best ears for seed. These have hung over the pantry lintel all winter.

Taking corn seed off dried cobs is easy as pie: just rub in a twisting motion and it all comes off. I had rubbed about three ears' worth of corn and stored it in a jar, but the rest just hung over the pantry all winter. It was the corn seed in the jar that we planted first.

Well, although that entire strip isn't planted yet, it looks like we'll only use the corn seed from the jar to plant everything we need, with some left over. This leaves the other eight corn ears' worth of seed unused. So I shucked the seed off this afternoon and found it nearly fills a quart jar.

This pleases me. It means we have a generous amount of corn seed to have on hand in case this year's crop fails, and/or to share with others who might need some seed corn. And it also plays into another little dream of mine.

One of my concerns if the bleep hits the fan and the economy goes south is that we won't be able to buy chicken feed to feed our chickens. Chickens, I'm sure you realize, are valuable critters on a homestead for eggs and meat. We'd really like to feed ours even through hard times.

So, if I plant tons of extra corn above and beyond what we need, then dry it...well, it's easy to grind it and feed it to the chickens. We already have a grinder.

And if our wheat patch works, then I can combine the corn with the wheat. Cracked corn and wheat would be good nutrition for chickens.

I've often thought about homestead activities as a loop or circle, with a totally closed loop being complete self-sufficiency. Everything we can produce or grow or raise or harvest on our own land and through our own activities closes the loop just a little bit more.

If the corn/wheat/chicken feed experiment works, that's another section of loop closed.


  1. I'm curious how many kernels you put in each planting hole, and what's that old rhyme?

    And, how does one measure seed corn? That is, how many acres (?) would a quart of seed plant, and how many ears would that yield?

    Bill Smith

  2. Outstanding planning. Of course, the best sweet corn comes from my uncle's farm in Ohio.

    Steve Davis
    Anchorage, Alaska

  3. Bill, we plant three kernels per hole, about a foot apart in both directions in a grid four rows deep with about a yard between rows. The yard-wide blank space is so I can reach between rows to weed, etc., as well as set up the sprinkler without blasting down some of the corn stalks.

    Not sure about how much seed corn plants how much acreage. With the understanding that the 12x150 strip we planted isn't wall-to-wall corn (meaning, I've left those three-foot spaces between blocks), then one pint of seed corn planted the entire section, or about 1800 square feet. This isn't overly precise, of course, and yield will depend on how much we water, how fertile the soil is, etc. Hope this helps!


  4. One version of the rhyme:

    "One for the blackbird, one for the crow, one for the soil and one to grow."

  5. what is the variety/name of the corn you planted? did you eat any of it as sweet corn? how was it? we are looking for a non hybrid sweet corn variety to grow here in ky. thanks!

  6. We bought seed corn from a company called Victory Seeds ( They're in Oregon, if I remember correctly, and we chose them because they're "local," meaning Pacific northwest. We figured the varieties they carry would be better suited to our climate than a company in, say, Florida or Virginia. Obviously everything we ordered is nonhybrid.

    The variety of corn we bought is called Golden Bantam. It has a fairly short maturity period (78 days), which is a consideration here in our northern climate.

    - Patrice

  7. Oh sorry Ann, meant to finish answering your questions....

    We ended up planting the corn late last year (end of June) and so it never really got mature enough to eat fresh. I think we managed to get one meal's worth before it got too starchy and late in the season, so we just saved it for seed. Hey, live and learn. But the one meal we had was very good. I can recommend the variety, though if you're in Kentucky you may want to research out a variety more suited to longer and warmer summers than we have. There's no shortage of excellent heritage sweet corn to choose from.

    - Patrice

  8. Thanks Patrice and BecBeq!

    Bill Smith

  9. You might try a site called SeedsTrust. I don't know what kind of season you have where you are, but we live near Idaho City, and don't have a season worth doodly without a green house.

    Anyway, the guy who owns SeedsTrust is originally from Ketchum. He specializes in cold weather/short season seeds. He's got 4 heirloom and 1 hybrid variety early corn that CAN tolerate a bit of frost. He's intimately familiar with the problems we have. (Snow on the 4th of July, for

    He also has a bunch of cold weather/short season tomatoes from Russia/Siberia that I can't wait to get my hands on.