Corn trials

This year my corn planting got off to a very rocky start. Out of habit, and no really good reason, I have always started my corn off in toilet roll tubes and then planted them in the garden when they got to a good size. I tried it this year with two (new to me) varieties, Painted Mountain and Ontos Oval, a popping corn.

It was pretty much a complete failure with only 4 of 24 seeds germinating.

A pretty poor germinnation rate

It didn’t take long to work out that the potting mix was to blame. What has always been a good quality brand appears to have changed it’s mix, or maybe quality control wasn’t working because what we got was completely impervious to wetting. I even resorted to pulling the seed back out and potting in a different mix. I got another 3 seedlings up but I have written the rest off.

That left me doing what I should have done originally, direct seeding into the garden beds. I am having a play with planting one batch of Painted Mountain corn into the bed that had my broadbeans in it. Given that last year’s re-grown broadbeans gave us the most pods this year, I have cut the recent crop down to ground level and planted the corn between them in the hope that the broadbean roots will continue to fix nitrogen into the bed. The beans are already re-shooting.

Broad beans re-shooting with one of the few Painted Mountain corn seeds that germinated first time around.

Both types of the direct seeded corn are sprouting now, along with their ‘sister’ beans, this year it’s Lazy Housewife beans.

Lazy Housewife beans and the Painted Mountain corn sprouting.

The third ‘sister’ I have only planted in one bed. Rather than the traditional pumpkin I have planted Purple Sweet Potato. These are purchased plants, as we were totally unsuccessful at striking cuttings from a tuber as we had planned.

Sweet Potato plants with the corn sprouting alongside.

I hope that the sweet potato will grow as well as the crop I saw at the open garden I visited a while back.

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A job done

It feels good to have worked in the garden today.

I started to clean up the ‘three sisters’ bed last week

Fisrt stage of the clean-up, cutting back the corn and beans
First stage of the clean-up, cutting back the corn and beans

and found some unexpected bounty among the spent plants.

A butternut pumpkin and some small cobs of blue popcorn
A butternut pumpkin and some small cobs of blue popcorn

I was going to leave what was left of the corn plants on the bed. This would have protected the scarlet runner bean plants from the frost. But then I decided it would be better for the soil if I planted another crop there instead.

So today I planted out some red mustard and komatsuna, a Japanese brassica. The bean plants are still there and we hope they will re-shoot in spring. Scarlet runner beans are also called seven year beans, a reference to their ability to grow for several seasons. So far we have only had one season from them, but this year …

A seedling red mustard
A seedling red mustard

The red colouring in this seedling will become more obvious in the mature plant. I welcome its colour in my garden. Apart from tasting very good the other reason I was keen to plant the red mustard is that as it grows it will release compounds that naturally suppress soil pests and pathogens. All the better for my garden bed ‘s next crop.

I also managed to plant out my last batch of pea seedlings. These plants are Massey Bush peas. They have been slow to germinate and I’ve had quite a few that haven’t shot at all. I think that the seed may have been a bit old. Before planting the seedlings I dug some blood and bone into the soil and found about 10 white curl grubs (larvae of Scarab beetles) which were greedily eaten by the chooks. Talk about natural pest control.

Having worked for several hours it felt good to go and relax in a hot bath.