Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Today in the Potager and the Family Garden

Lettuce planted on April 22.

Strawberry 'Honeyoye transplanted last September.

Sugar Snap Peas planted in April.

The potager is coming along. The rain on Monday afternoon really helped the germination percentage. The lettuce in the cold frame, germinated under lights two weeks after the lettuce direct-seeded in the garden, pricked out, and transplanted is exponentially larger than the direct-seeded.

The peas in cells in the cold frame have yet to germinate. Those planted in our cold wet April look nice. My experiment this year is to grow them on my grape trellis and into my privet instead of using pea sticks.

At the family garden I planted three blocks of sweetcorn and a 4' square of radishes, 'French Breakfast'. I choose three different varieties of sweetcorn: 'Jubilee,' 'Country Gentleman,' and Early Sunglow'.

The 'Early Sunglow is a very early 62-day hybrid. I will plant more of 'Early Sunglow' in two to three weeks from now to ensure sweetcorn throughout the summer.

With all the GMO varieties of sweetcorn and extra sugar gene-spliced varieties, we wanted to keep it simple, going with heirloom or old-fashioned F1 hybrids. 'Country Gentleman' is an heirloom non-hybrid variety which will take 92-days to ripen. I'm a little worried about that one. If the 'Country Gentleman' actually sprouted by May 14, that puts the earliest harvest at August 15, and probably much later than that.

They usually start counting from the time the seed sprouts. We are supposed to have rain tonight, possibly tomorrow, and temperatures in the 70s-80s on Wednesday and Thursday. Typically, the ground should be 55 degrees to 75 degrees to ensure good germination for sweetcorn. We have had like four days of temperatures in the 60s this year. I can't imagine the soil temperature is above 55 degrees yet today, but possibly it will be by the time it rains all day tomorrow. Corn seed will rot rather than germinate if the soil is too cool or wet. The 'Early Sunglow' is specifically grown in areas where cool temperature are considered normal.

'Jubilee' is a F1 hybrid and a 87-day variety.

I planted each variety in short three row blocks, with each row about two feet from the next, because of what I assume will be vastly different tasseling/pollination times. As corn is typically pollinated by wind-borne pollen, and kernels will not form unless the silk leading to that kernel receives pollen. It is counter productive to pollination to plant in one long row.

We are going to go pesticide- and herbicide-free on our sweetcorn. We will be planting a legume to fix nitrogen in the soil around our sweetcorn and a squash to provide a ground cover to prevent weeds. This is a traditional Native American method of growing sweetcorn. They would plant the three species in each hill and then revisit their garden in thelate summer to harvest.

We intend to layer green compost materials, which are higher in nitrogen, around our sweetcorn as a mulch. Sweetcorn is a heavy nitrogen feeder. I am not sure we will be able to go chemical fertilizer-free, but we will make the attempt and I will watch for how the plants look and whether they show signs of nutrient deficiencies like yellowing, pale color, or a purple tinge to lower leaves.

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