Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Half of the sweet corn is planted

In my lifetime, sweet corn has gotten ten times better.

The standard when I was in my teens was Iochief hybrid sweet corn. The ears were large, the kernels deep, the plants robust and the flavor if you rushed it from the garden to the kettle was pretty good.  You can still buy Iochief hybrid sweet corn seed.

Since then, several mutations have been introduced to the trade. Specifically, SH and SE mutations.

The SH mutation is responsible for super-sweet sweet corn. It comes at a price. The seed is shriveled and shrunken (hence the SH). It is a puny germinating seed and it punishes the gardener who plants it too deeply or too soon or too shallow. It is an unforgiving seed.

The SE mutation is a bit friendlier. It is Sweetness Enhanced. The seeds are not quite as shriveled and mean.

I weighed a few kernels from an ear of ornamental corn I had sitting around. The kernels averaged about 360 milligrams or about 75 to the ounce. The SE corn seed I planted today averaged about 150 milligrams or 185 to the ounce. It should be obvious that the larger the seed the more energy it has to punch through a deep layer of soil or through a dried crust.

Corn is a heat loving plant. Even field corn refuses to germinate at soil temperatures below 50F. Sweet corn is darned tempermental at soil temperatures below 60F. It might germinate, or it might not.

The dirt in the garden was warm enough to be comfortable walking around barefoot upon it. So I judge it to be approaching 70F. Accu-guesser predicts that our daytime highs will be over 80 for the next four days. Warmth + moisture + Corn seeds is good.

I tied knots every 15" in this twine. That is the spacing I used for the potatoes. I had some help from Kubota today (applause). The plan was to make mud at every knot and between each knot. The rows are 42 inches apart.

I like to cheat.

I used one of my dad's tricks. I poured some water where I wanted to plant a seed and then I pressed the seed into the mud. Corn seed likes to be in firm contact with the soil so it can wick up moisture and start to germinate.

One advantage to this method is that by making the mud spot small, you don't germinate as many weed seeds within the row. That means your corn plants will have a head start and can shade out many of the weeds.

Then, to hide the seeds from the birds and to protect the mud from drying out, we covered the seeds with a tiny bit of potting soil. I am sure sawdust or sand would have worked just as well. Potting soil, sawdust and sand do not crust over. The seed does not have to work very hard to punch through it.

In very round numbers, we planted seven rows with about forty seeds in each row. Mrs ERJ's plan is to have me plant another 280 seeds in a week.

The variety is an 80 day hybrid so that puts us into the last few weeks of August.

As Voltaire observed at the conclusion of his book Candide "the violence and plunder of kings cannot not compare with the productive and peaceful life of those who minded their own business and 'cultivated their own garden,'."

This is a good time to cultivate our gardens.


  1. Our tomato plants were four feet tall and starting to produce fruit when we left for vacation. Hoefully the will be loaded when we get back.

  2. Hmmm. I shall try again with corn. I have been starting early and probably not waiting for enough ground warmth. Not sure where to put them now though.

  3. Wood Prarie Farm in Maine starts there sweet corn seed for seed saving in cells in trays and plants then with a transplant machine behind a tractor because the birds were pulling the newly emerged plants for the seed and they were propagating a rare variety. I tried it here in Alaska and putting them in my hoop house but they never got the ears filled out. The outfit mentioned mainly sells seed potatoes. That would be a solution to cold soil for extra early sweet corn in warmer climes

  4. I always liked the Silver Queen hybrid. That grew well in the South!

  5. I'm sorry as I don't mean to hijack the thread but it appears WRSA has gone poof!!! Sometime in the last few hours there is now a "shame on you you violated out terms of service and ticked off a lefty" notice

    1. Thanks for the heads-up.

      I just backed up the blog to a hard-drive and a thumb-drive.

      I try to keep a lid on the "edginess" but there is always something someone somewhere can complain about.

  6. For long term storage corn that doesn't require freezing or canning I've been wondering about popcorn. To pop it doesn't take much equipment, and to soak the skins off to form hominy, or mash the hominy into masa doesn't take much more.