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Growing Corn in A Small Garden

May 22, 2013

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Last year was my first year to grow corn. With only four 4 by 8 foot beds for annual vegetables, every year I give much thought to which crops to grow. This season, I decided it was well worth devoting 24 of my 128 square feet to corn again. Read about last year’s experience in Corn at the Coast and see my ‘Blue Jade’ corn here.

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'Sugar Pearl’ white corn is this year’s selection. Here’s the catalog description. (Who could resist?)

Handsome ears of succulent kernels with the delicate, sweet, meltingly tender flavor available from the best white corn. Top eating quality and ideal for short/early season harvests. 

Here at the coast, foggy days in early summer approximate 'short season’ conditions. Memories of white corn and summers in New England confirmed my choice of 'Sugar Pearl.’

Sweet white corn, warm from the summer’s sun is how I remember corn bought at Marini Farm in Ipswich, Massachusetts. No need to grow it in my New England garden when a five minute drive on a late summer afternoon yielded corn just brought in from the field. An hour later we savored it at dinner. Literally, farm to table.

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Photo credit: Renee’s Garden

But now to planting corn here in coastal San Diego. A veteran gardener near me, who grows corn in a protected garden 25 feet from the ocean, inspired me to try it in my garden last year. I walk by his small plot at least once a week to check on the garden progress.

This year I noticed he planted his corn in the typical grid, but each seed was in a saucer-sized depression. So this is how I planted my corn. Gardening is about experimentation.

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I spaced seeds only eight inches apart last year and it worked well. This year my grid is five seeds across in each of six rows. Pollination is improved when corn is planted in a grid instead of long rows.

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Since I don’t have a dead fish to plant with each seed (Squanto style), I put a small handful of worm compost from my worm bin in the center of each “saucer.”

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Then I pushed the seed an inch deep and patted down the worm compost (and worms). 

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I covered the planted area with upended nursery trays to keep the birds from snatching the green corn shoots as they emerge. When I watered the seed in, it puddled nicely in the saucer depressions.

Now the 70 day wait. That should be about July 27th. Note to self: do not plan vacation for late July.

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