Nitrogen In July
By growing it, I now know first-hand how staggeringly resource-intensive modern hybrid sweet corn is. I decided to try to grow it like it wants to be grown. I wanted some 6-foot stalks and big ears. What big corn wants is lots of water and lots and lots of high-nitrogen fertilizer. I started out with Miracle Gro Lawn Food, and now I'm thinking about breaking out my private stash of ammonium nitrate.
Wow, corn is a hungry hungry plant! In the past I've grown it "organically", achieving 3-foot stalks and 3-inch ears. Why bother? The past few years we've bought sweet corn from a couple of guys farming an empty lot a few miles down the road. Lovely to see it grown so nearby.
This year, I drove past the field of growing corn and saw a guy wearing a fully enclosed haz-mat suit complete with respirator and oxygen tank. He was driving a tractor spraying the corn with something. I suddenly lost my appetite for that corn, and decided to grow some at home. Really grow some. I won't apply insecticides--if it gets eaten it gets eaten, but I wanted to see if I could get results like those guys down the road.
Hey, that Aloe is blooming again! (Camera wanders away from corn and to Aloe...)
So, the corn is growing. I put it out front, the only spot I had open, in some really excellent soil--I've been mulching that spot for 11 years and the mulch has been breaking down for 11 years and the soil is good. Not good enough for corn, though, without some nitrogen. (The neighbor across the street did ask, "Is that...corn?" I changed the subject quickly.)
You probably already know that corn should be planted in blocks not rows, for more effective pollination, and a couple of drops of mineral oil on the silks right after pollination prevents a corn caterpillar from invading the ear and ruining it, but I thought I'd mention it, anyway.
Oooh, prettier than corn! Aloe megalacantha flowers with Aloe gariepensis in the background:
What else appreciates nitrogen in July? Begonias. They love the warm(ish) nights that stay above 60. This is their time to shine. I have very ordinary begonias, but to me, they are joyful, ordinary or not.
Another nitrogen-in-July appreciator are the two apparently dead 'Perle d'Azur' clematis I moved some weeks ago. I thought they were dead, but they were not. Now in better spots, they have responded with their first growth of the year. Hence some nitrogen. I'm hoping for a flower or two in a few weeks, and even better performance next spring. Their supports are improvised: a tomato cage and some copper coil, some wire fencing. I'll have to come up with something better next winter. For now, I'm just happy the clematis surivived.
A last thing that likes Nitrogen in July: nasty black aphids dedicating themselves to attacking this nitrogen-fed Dahlia. Squish, squish.
And so goes July.