It occurs to me that I have been delinquent. Incredibly delinquent. I never posted that final update that I promised on my corn … oh… some time ago. Two years, you say? Well, I suppose that sounds about right. A lot has happened in those two years, including a move to a new house, which is sadly garden-less. In other words, there hasn’t been any more corn since that first glorious harvest. But I haven’t forgotten a thing. Here are the final lessons that I learned:
1) Harvest Time
One of the most difficult parts about the corn was deciding when to harvest it. It was impossible to know what the corn would look like until I opened it, and once I did, that was it for that cob! If only there were a way to reattach it.
I harvested the first cob on August 8th, 11 weeks after the corn first poked above the ground in the garden. This turned out to be too early, which was disappointing. Here’s what the ear looked before I picked it:
Looks ready, right? It wasn’t. Here’s how it measured up after I shucked it:
The ear was long enough, but the kernels weren’t really well developed yet. As you can see, it’s pretty skinny. After I steamed it, the corn popped in my mouth sort of like tobiko (you know, the fish eggs you get on sushi). And it wasn’t very sweet.
I picked my second ear on August 16th, a week later. So a total of 12 weeks after the corn first sprouted in the garden. This time it was much better! Here’s what it looked like:
See the difference? Not much longer, but much fatter! It was quite delicious 🙂 The corn continued to be good for the eating a week later, when I picked a whole bunch of it to share for dinner. It stayed good for about another week after that.
So my advice, at least with Seattle’s relatively cool summers, is to wait at least 12 weeks before you harvest! It’s hard, I know, but it’ll be worth it.
2) My yield, and about those tillers
In the end, each corn stalk had at least one ear of corn. A few had three ears. Most plants had two. Out of my 16 plants, I ended up with a little more than thirty ears.
However, not all ears were created equal. Some never fully developed to the point where they were really edible. Some stalks, the ones that had looked like weaklings early on (light green, thin), didn’t really produce any edible ears. The ears of corn that never fully developed were the ones that looked like this when they started silking:
Likewise, I found that ears on tillers never fully developed into delicious, juicy corn. Two ears per stalk ended up being the magic number–the third ear that grew on some stalks never fully developed. So in my experience, it wouldn’t be a waste to go ahead and break off tillers when they start to appear. I would guess that doing so would allow the plant to nourish its two primary ears better and make them even juicier!
3) Those critter protections
You might recall that I treated my corn with Btk once it had fully silked (when the silks were turning brown) to prevent earworms. I can happily report that none of my corn was infested with earworms. Now, I don’t know whether this means that the Btk worked, because I can’t be sure that my corn would have been infested in the first place. But I think the Btk precaution was worth it, to come out with zero buggy ears! In a few ears I think I applied it a tad early–there were a few rows of corn at the tip that didn’t develop. But I think that was a small loss–nothing I haven’t seen in commercial corn I’ve bought!
Now, about those raccoon / squirrel / bird thwarting socks! I eventually abandoned these. When it rained, the socks would get soaked, and then I had to remove them and dry them to keep the corn from getting moldy or mildewy. And it was hard to always catch it in time–ideally, I would’ve just wanted to remove the socks before it rained, but that basically never happened. In the end, I don’t think this was the best solution, and no big critters attacked my corn anyway. Although! I have recently seen raccoons wandering around my yard here in Phinney Ridge in BROAD DAYLIGHT, so if your yard isn’t fully fenced, you might want to worry about them. Here’s proof:
So! Those are the biggest lessons that I learned from my corn growing adventures. I can’t wait until I have a garden again and can put those lessons to work! If you have any questions, please post them in the comments!
- Growing Corn in Seattle–What’s Worked for Me
- Protecting Corn from Squirrels, Birds, and Other Evil Scavengers