I read an Emily Green post in the LA Times @home blog yesterday. She hand-pollinated her corn, regretted growing it, "too much water, not enough enjoyment", and won't grow it again.
In contrast, I'm enjoying my corn. It's been interesting, though I still don't know what I'll get as far as a crop. Corn, I've found, is very like grass: it needs lots of water and a significant amount of nitrogen, and it likes full (very full) sun. No surprise there: corn is merely an extremely hybridized grass. I've had to water mine daily, although a gallon or two for all two dozen or so plants has been plenty, which doesn't seem that lavish. (That's a gallon for all of them, not a gallon for each plant.)
The tassels emerged last weekend, and within a couple of days were oozing a golden and sneeze-inducing plethora of pollen. I was taken aback as I saw no indication of ears anywhere--until the tassels were really broadcasting their pollen. Then, magically, where seemingly the day before there was nothing, there were suddenly silks ready to gather the golden cloud. Of course the corn stalks know what they are doing. How could I doubt?
I, like Ms. Green, did some hand pollinating, though I didn't see a need, since there was pollen everywhere, especially up my nose. But because I really want some corn, I broke off pieces of tassel and thoroughly shook them over every patch of silk.
As soon as the silks brown, indicating pollination, I will have to dribble a little mineral oil on the silks to prevent an invasion of an ear-boring caterpillar. Apparently this works, and is far less toxic than a chemical insecticide, which I saw being lavishly applied to the local corn field, which is why I got motivated to grow my own in the first place.
I was hoping for really tall corn. The tallest stalks are the ones that get an hour or so more sunlight than the stalks at the other end of the rows, which are shaded by 3:00pm and are only 4 feet tall. The tallest are nearly seven feet tall. (2 M). If I really knew what I was doing I would have 10 foot stalks. I have to figure out if the seven-footers also got more lawn food, or if it was sun only that gave them the extra height. I suppose that involves growing corn again next year, and I might, depending on how good the ears are.
Unlike Emily Green, I've had fun. She's sophisticated, I assume; I'm still a wide-eyed innocent, I guess. Apres corn, I know a little bit more than I used to about growing plants. I enjoyed the sheer madcap speed of corn: try watching a Yucca for six weeks and see if you can notice anything different. The stalks are decorative planted on the front slope with the Aloes, Agaves, Tagetes lemonii and Calothamnus villosus. They are...unexpected. It's good, it's good.
Yucca seven weeks ago:
Corn seven weeks ago:
How much longer before we eat? A week? Two? The butter is getting impatient.
Detailed information on the fertilization of corn here and here.