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Corn Problems: Growing Goonies Corn

A photo of Drew OdomCorn needs nitrogen rich soil with a neutral pH to grow. Corn is wind pollinated and does best planted in blocks rather than in rows (despite traditional methods). Corn needs a fair amount of water and does best when watered by natural, nitrogen-rich, rain.

The corn we planted this year (for the first time mind you) was planted in poorly composted and fed soil; not to mention tight, crisp, clay soil. It was planted in long rows; two varieties – North Carolina sweet and common field corn. Our corn received only 9 total days of rain since planted on April 10 and 11. The rest of the water came from sprinklers set for an hour every 3 days.

The result was less than we had hoped for.

Goonie Corn

Today I realized that several of our stalks were completely ready to be stripped; tassles were browning and cobs were rounded rather than pointed. The only problem was many of the cobs were a bit soft and showed signs of Earworms and Armyworms. I had mixed reactions for sure. I was pleased that we had, in fact, grown corn – tall stalks even. But I was not pleased that so much of our corn was useless. It was bittersweet.

After about 35 minutes or so of picking I brought the basket of husks up to Pan and presented her with the cobs of our labor; full of pride, full of appreciation, and somewhat full of apologies. I had promised her earlier in the season that this year we wouldn’t have to supplement our freezer with purchased corn from other local farmers. I told her we would have our own corn!

Without an adverse word she shucked them, cleaned them, and prepared them for dinner. As I sat down to eat I was presented – lovingly, mind you – with some of the ugliest corn I had ever laid my eyes on. Kernels were missing. Kernels were small. Kernels were swollen. And I haven’t even begun to talk about the taste ... or should I say lack thereof. If it weren’t for butter my saying grace would have sounded as such: “Lord, thank you for allowing us to grow this corn and for it filling an empty spot in our stomachs. But Lord, could you place upon it a miracle; one that involves taste ... please? Amen.”

So what I have I learned from all this? I have learned that field corn is best reserved for livestock and not cross-pollination experiments. I have learned that anyone can plant a seed but only a farmer with heart can patiently prepare the soil to cultivate a solid result. And I learned that my wife loves me and my Goonie corn!