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Growing Corn in a High Tunnel

Growing Corn in a High Tunnel

Growing Corn in a High Tunnel

Downsizing the garden has given me some wiggle room for experimenting. When you grow and do the same things year after year gardening gets monotonous. Without the need for thousands of plants and lots of variety now that I’m not market gardening I find new ways to get creative. Growing corn in a high tunnel was one of this year’s experiments.

The experiment was a success so we’ll be growing corn in a high tunnel next year. There aren’t many differences in methods between the tunnel and outdoors.

How to Grow Corn in a High Tunnel

Amend the soil as needed. If you haven’t done a soil test in a while now’s a good time. We add lime in the fall because it takes time to work. Corn is a heavy feeder so add plenty of nitrogen but not so much it burns the roots. I dug holes 12″ to 18″ deep and filled them with water twice to soak the soil. High tunnels aren’t open to rain.

Corn germinates best in soil 60° or warmer. If you want to add additional warmth and control weeds you can lay out IRT and cut holes. I didn’t because there isn’t a week problem on that side of the tunnel.

After the water drained I added fish guts to the bottom, and mixed compost into the soil, and then filled in the holes.

I used circles because I wasn’t planting a lot of corn. If you plant rows they should be at least four feet long and there should be a minimum of four rows for good pollination. Planting in small circles helped pollination. In a 12″ to 15″ circle I planted seven or eight seeds.

The soil stays warmer at night in the tunnel than it does outside so germination was fast, four or five days. Keep the soil moist by watering heavily once or twice a week. The number of times you’ll need to water depends on how much organic matter is in the soil to hold water, the temperature, size of plants and wind. Roots will grow deep to get to the rotted fish and you’ll notice a growth spurt.

growing corn in a high tunnel, early growth, high tunnel
corn, high tunnel, busy kitchen
growing corn in the high tunnel, corn, ear of cornI missed this ear so it was drying out before I picked it.

Fertilization

Continue to give the plants nitrogen through the growing season. When we kept fish we caught I dug a hole beside the roots, dumped the guts in, watered well and refilled the hole. There was never a fish smell to attract raccoons and skunks. Use whatever you normally use for a nitrogen fertilizer.

Pollination

Every silk on an ear of corn is attached to a potential kernel. The silk must be pollinated for the kernel to grow. The plants closest to the door were pollinated best because the wind blew the plants more than those in the back. The sides were rolled up all summer but that doesn’t provide enough air flow high to move the plants for successful pollination. There were a few ears that weren’t edible and a few that should have been better pollinated. Next year I’ll plant the corn in the front half of the tunnel and give the end plants a better shake to improve pollination.

The variety I chose averages six feet tall. Growing corn in a high tunnel gives extra warmth and allows for the easy addition of nitrogen. This corn averaged seven feet and topped out just over ten feet. The stalks are thick and heavy and supported the extra height well.

Corn Pests

There were no pests! It’s nice to peel back the shucks and not find corn earworms.

Clean Up

Clean up was easy. I used long-handled pruning shears to cut the stalks at ground level. Leaving them higher than ground level is potential to trip over the stubs. The roots will start to break down and feed the soil so continue to water if you’re not going to plant something in that spot for winter crops. Growing corn in a high tunnel was a great experiment that results in delicious sweet corn.

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Coming Home to Food

Coming Home to Food

Coming Home to Food

I spent last week in the Adirondacks, tucked away in Cabin 3 at a women’s writing retreat. There’s always something to learn, and learn I did. A lot. I don’t have Pam and Deb giving me ideas on what words to write in the next five, ten, 25 minutes so I have to create or find my own prompts. There isn’t anyone to cook three meals a day for me now. But then there’s the garden. The garden had a to-do list waiting for me when I pulled in the drive at almost ten o’clock Friday night. Coming home to food we’re growing re-grounds me.

Walking through the yard, garden and high tunnel early this morning was a nice way to slide back into homesteading. The raspberries were ripening when I left. I picked two and a half quarts Saturday morning before being stung by a yellow jacket and quitting for the day, and today there are three or four or more quarts waiting to be picked. I picked one cucumber, sprinkled it with sea salt and promptly devoured the whole thing. I pruned most of the cucumber vines Saturday morning but more are waiting for me. Coming home to food re-energizes me. I’m ready to get back to the garden today.

So Much Food!

The zucchini will have to wait until Tuesday; growing another inch or two will give us more to eat in Tuesday night’s supper. The peas, well they’re not waiting. I’ll have to pick them today. I’m over peas, thank you very much. I’ll pick them one more time, throw down some lime, climb up on the tractor, and rototill the weedy, pea viney mess into the soil like I planned to do last week. Next week I’ll plant the fall peas…or not. I’m not sure I want to deal with more weeds this year.

Come for a walk around the homestead with me. We’ll start outside the high tunnel.

Watching Food Grow

July in the High Tunnel

The high tunnel is my favorite garden. It provides food year round when I keep it planted for winter, as I’ll do this year. We’re about to tear apart a raised bed that isn’t raised anymore, rebuild it and fill it with good soil that we’ll amend in the process. Seems like we grow as much food in 1,000 square feet as we do in the wide open garden. I’m experimenting this year. Corn in the high tunnel? It’s growing, and so I think it will work.

Planted Today- June 7, 2016

Planted Today- June 7, 2016

Planted Today

I planted today! A lot. I got a lot done. There’s a little more I’d like to have planted today but it rained, and I was getting cold dressed in just a t-shirt with my jeans.  It was cool and cloudy when I started working in the high tunnel, then the sun came out and warmed the tunnel to well over 80°, five degrees above my melting point. I moved outside to the regular garden. The sunshine was brief, followed by sprinkles of rain, followed by a breeze, followed by rain, followed by hot and sweaty me getting wet and chilly. Water dripped down my bangs, into my eyes and down my nose. Gross. That’s enough.

There’s plenty of time for things like the winter storage carrots next week. I still have the next and last succession planting of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage (red, storage) and Brussels sprouts to seed. The pole beans will be planted next week. So much to plant still.

I’m listening to the pouring rain fall steadily. It’s raining so hard there’s a small stream running down the side of the road. We need this rain for the garden and pond, and for the lakes, ponds and streams that are lower now than they usually are on July 4. The cedar in the wood stove crackles and snaps as the fire catches. Just a small fire, enough to take the damp chill out of the house and make it cozy while I sip my wine and listen to Jason Isbell. Supper? hmm… Undecided still. I should have cut Swiss chard and spinach but since I didn’t, and since I’m not going back out until after supper, that’s not what we’ll be eating.

Here’s my list of what I planted today. * indicates varieties that are new to me.

  • Purple Top White Globe turnip
  • Cherry Belle radish
  • Early Wonder Tall Top beets

The turnip, radish and beets were scattered together over a bed.

In the high tunnel:

  • Top Hat OP Yellow corn*
  • Costata Romanesca OP zucchini
  • Jackpot zucchini

Back outside:

  • Harris Model parsnip
  • Sweet Annie

Musque de Provence, planted today

Wyatt's Wonder, Renee's Garden, planted todayPumpkins:

  • Wyatt’s Wonder
  • Cheese
  • Route Vif D’Etampes
  • Lumina White
  • Winter Luxury Pie*
  • Musque De Provence
  • Baby Pam
  • Long Pie*
  • Champion
  • Spookie (courtesy of Renee’s Garden)

Some of the pumpkins will be eaten by us and others by the deer, and some are for decoration. The decorative pumpkins will be fed to the chickens and ducks or the deer next winter.

Winter Squash

  • Seminole*
  • Burpee’s Butterbush Butternut*
  • Waltham Butternut
  • Marina Di Chioggia
  • Galeux d’Eysines
  • Jarrahdale
  • Sweet Dumpling
  • Blue Hubbard.

If we have a wet summer I’ll cover the root ends of the blue Hubbard plants with a low tunnel to keep them from taking up too much water. Blue Hubbard tends to be wet, and we prefer dry squash. We grow dry squash but we like the flavor of Blue Hubbard, especially when dry.

The rain has turned from pouring to monsoon, back to pouring, and down to a steady rain. The seeds are well watered now. I won’t have to water again anytime soon. What did you get planted today?