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Growing Sweet Corn

Posted by David Grau on

Originally Posted on June 06, 2013

Growing Sweet Corn

Nothing is quite like picking your own sweet corn. Corn needs warm soil for best germination. Plan on making several sowings over your season. That way you’ll get to harvest throughout the summer.

sweet cornCorn needs plenty of sun, warmth, and water. The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible recommends planting seeds one inch deep, when the soil is at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Spacing the seeds eight inches apart in a block pattern will allow better pollination than doing a long, skinny row will. The pollen needs to reach the silk from the tassels for good kernel formation, and the block pattern helps with that.

Corn needs good soil and plenty of nitrogen. Aged chicken manure is a good choice for fertilizer. Harvest for sweet corn when the ears feel plump and the silk is starting to turn brown. You can open an ear and break open a kernel to check that it is at the “milk stage.” This comes about 18-22 days after the silk first appears (according to Purdue University department of Agronomy.)

When your corn is ready, enjoy it raw, roasted in the husk, steamed, or boiled. Let a few plants grow on to the hard kernel stage, and you’ll have some decorations for the autumn.

Protecting Apricots from Birds

Last year our Moorpark apricots were ripening fast. Scrub Jays were helping themselves to the fruit we put bird scare tape on the tree. This treatment did not help deter the birds for long. We resorted to bagging the fruit clusters, which worked quite well.

protecting apricots with bagsWe tried paper bags affixed to the tree with clothespins. This kept the fruits protected from the birds. We were not able to easily bag all the fruit, but more than enough to get a good harvest. The Jays were still having their share of unbagged fruits, and the chickens finished off the half-eaten apricots when they hit the ground. The chickens loved the apricots. Just a few of our Moorpark apricots are starting to turn toward yellow from green, so the bagging procedure is in the immediate future.

Last year we got quite enough ripe apricots to try our hand at making a batch of apricot chutney. A few pounds of fruit made approximately five half-pints, which were put in the chest freezer, and proved a delicious addition roasted chicken in the depths of December. We checked out several recipes, both online and in cookbooks, and came up with a mash-up recipe, improvising some along the way. We used a handful of ripe currants from our black currant plants instead of raisins.

We used a small amount of brown sugar (not quite half a cup), and added two chopped jalapeño peppers, as well as a few shakes of red pepper flakes. Two chopped yellow onions, about four rough-chopped cloves of garlic, a few tablespoons of peeled ginger root, a quarter teaspoon each of mustard seeds, cumin, salt, and black pepper. All of this was mixed together with about a quarter to half cup of apple cider vinegar. It simmered for a while, and it came out great!

Chickens in the Garden

In our last issue we shared our experience with trying to break up a broody hen. We ended up purchasing a couple of three-day old pullets from the feed store, and the hen and chicks took to each other wonderfully. The chicks are doing well, feathering nicely, and their barred rock feather pattern is quite pronounced now.

They've learned to come to the human when the chicken scratch is distributed in the morning, and evening (spoiled chickens!), and they are climbing, scratching, and flapping their little wings all about the yard. The sight of baby chicks might have inspired a couple of our other hens, for they too had gone quite broody.

This time around we were determined to break up these broodies, for we needed no more chickens right now, and we didn’t want to encourage them by giving them eggs on which to sit, or slipping some chicks under them. Into the chicken jail went the two broodies, along with a nice young rooster. They had plenty of room to walk around and perch, but nowhere to really nest. After a couple of nights in jail, one broody was done with her urge to sit, and the other needed a couple more nights before she was ready to return to the flock. They’ll get back to laying eggs within a few weeks.

chicken eggsWe are getting quite a lovely egg harvest each day from the productive hens. We love the variety of sizes and colors of the eggs, and enjoy their delicious flavor. We cannot imagine going back to supermarket eggs. Plus we love to watch the chicken antics (the sky is falling!), and to listen to all the different sounds they make.

Predators get the flock into quite a clucking and squawking frenzy, and depending upon their posture we can tell if it is a sky predator (mostly hawks around here) or a ground predator (cats from the neighboring farm). An upright posture, with everyone looking around will indicate a ground predator, whereas a crouched posture (usually under the cover of some shrubs) will indicate a sky predator. When the hawks fly away, the chickens make a call that sounds like alarmed relief.

Valley Oak Tool Co. Trial Garden

In the Valley Oak Tool Co. gardens, the sweet smell of Gardenia blossoms is perfuming the air, gold and red raspberries are ripening each day, and even a few of our tomatoes have offered up some ripe fruit for us to enjoy. Our first tomato to ripen was a cherry variety called Sungold, and the first ripe tomatoes of the season are a delicious treat.

young eggplantsOur Hansel eggplants are putting on glossy purple fruit, the potatoes are blooming, and our Thai peppers are bursting with tiny, immature fruits. We’ve recently planted lemon cucumber seeds, and a few pole beans. We’ve sampled a few of our early peaches (as have the local scrub Jays), and the soft-ripe peaches are bursting with delicious flavor. Eating food from our own gardens is a wonderful reward for the time and effort we put into our gardens.

We've been busy using our four-tine cultivator to prep planting areas, we put the furrower attachment to use by making furrows for planting cucumbers and pole beans, and for touching up our irrigation channels. Our hiller attachment has been great for hilling our potatoes (and a floppy pepper plant). We've put together several combination packages for the wheel hoe. They have everything you need to plant and maintain your crops.

Our first package is great for folks who already have our wheel hoe. The Complete Attachment Package for Wheel Hoe includes a four-tine cultivator, a furrower, a choice of hoe blade assembly, and a hiller.

If you are making your first foray into wheel hoeing, we've got a package for you too. The Valley Oak Wheel Hoe Complete Package includes a Valley Oak Wheel Hoe (which comes standard with an 8" hoe attachment) plus everything in the Complete Attachment Package.

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