Trying Something New in the Georgia Community Garden – Corn

Today we continue our series on a good replacement for tomatoes in our summer community garden plots. Today’s crop to consider is corn.

Usually corn is avoided in the community garden. The tall stalks shade other plants, there is not much yield in the amount you can grow in a small space, and corn takes a large amount of water. That being said, I sometimes find community gardeners who really want to grow their own corn. They remember eating corn fresh from a grandparent’s farm or working the corn patch with their parents. Often these gardeners are now city dwellers and the corn means a great deal to them.

Corn tassels waiting on wind to spread the pollen

Instead of totally abandoning the idea of growing corn, why not think about trying some of the short growing varieties? Several of the seed companies offer shorter varieties. Burpee advertises a corn for growing in a patio container called On-Deck Hybrid. The description of this type states that it grows 4 – 5 feet high. Compare that to Silver Queen which stretches 8 feet tall.

Park Seed offers a shorter variety called Early Sunglow Hybrid. Stalks from this corn are expected to top at 4 feet. Another thought is popcorn. Seed Savers offers Tom Thumb popcorn which grows only 3-4 feet tall. I have grown popcorn many times. It is fun to grow and fun to pop with children or grandchildren.

I will caution you that more than a few stalks need to be grown to get any kind of yield. Many stalks yield 1-2 corn ears per plant. If you are serious about trying corn in the community garden consider allocating at least half of your 4’X 8′ garden bed for the crop. Also, remember that the crop is wind pollinated. It does not hurt to shake those corn tassels yourself to make sure the pollen moves around.

Happy Gardening!

Corn Controversy in the Community Garden

To plant corn in your community garden plot or to NOT plant corn in your community garden plot?

Fresh corn is one of the joys of summertime.  The serious corn connoisseur will have you boil the water first and then pick the ears to make sure corn flavor is at its peak.

Corn tassling

However, growing this crop can be controversial in the community garden.  Here is why:

Corn is Wind Pollinated

You will not get much corn with a few stalks.  Corn is wind pollinated and each kernel of corn is formed from one grain of pollen.  It takes a large amount of pollen at just the right place on a corn plant to give you nice full ears of corn.  Larger stands will produce a higher quality crop than a smaller stand.

If you really want to have fresh corn of your own think, about planting corn in blocks and not rows.  This will increase pollination.  Also, as the corn tassels you could help pollination along by gently shaking the stalks.

This small stand of corn will not yield a satisfactory crop.
This small stand of corn will not yield a satisfactory crop.

Corn is Tall and Subject to Wind Damage

Corn is a tall, thin plant with a somewhat shallow root system.  That means any thunderstorm with a windy component could really damage your crop.   If you are a corn farmer with many acres of corn, wind from our afternoon thunderstorm might take out a few stalks at the perimeter of the corn stand.  If you are growing only 10 stalks, that damage could really affect your dinner plate.

Some community gardens like to stake each corn plant, like you would a pepper plant.  This adds extra support for those afternoon storms.

Corn at a Park Pride CG
Each corn stalk is staked for added support.

Corn Can Shade Out Other Crops

Corn is a tall crop and may shade out the rest of your plot or even your neighbor’s garden plot. There are shorter varieties which might be more appropriate for your garden but even shorter varieties like Golden Bantam or Sweetness Hybrid grow to 5 feet.  Growing Home Garden Sweet Corn has information on varieties recommended for Georgia.

Tom Thumb popcorn only grows 3-4 feet.  Popcorn is not quite the same, I know.

Think about asking for a plot on the perimeter of your community garden so shading won’t be a factor. Growing only corn for one season may improve your chances of a higher quality crop.

There are so many aspects to consider just to get fresh corn on your plate.   Who knew it could be so controversial?

Happy Gardening!