Corn and Tomatoes

Pulled out the remaining broccoli plants to make room for the corn crop. I checked my records and this broccoli was started from seed in August and September and moved to the garden late September and October. So we really do get a long season and a continuous harvest from December through February. I used 3 different varieties with different maturation points so the main heads were staggered out and side shoots from all were prolific the last two months. For what it’s worth, I liked a variety called Calabrese which is an old, heritage variety. It took longer than the more modern hybrids and grew much taller which is probably a negative for many gardens. Also the florets were not as tight but I thought tastier and more tender. I unloaded 4 wheel barrel loads of lake bottom muck over top of the broccoli roots and will probably overtop that with a shallow layer of compost. If the weather holds, I’ll probably plant the corn seed in mid March. The only thing holding me up is a dozen or so lettuce plants right in the middle of the planned corn patch. Those will be gone within the next few weeks – one way or the other.

Corn is one of those crops that has to be planted in a substantial block. You can’t just grow a few corn plants but need at least 50 plants and the more, the better. That’s because it pollinates by the wind so if you just have a few plants, the pollen could/will most likely totally miss the target. I’ll end up with maybe 100 plants in a 15‘x20′ area. I’ve decided to try the “three sisters” method again. I didn’t have much luck doing that 3 years ago but then I didn’t have much luck doing anything 3 years ago. The 3 sisters are corn, squash, and pole beans. The technique is to plant the corn and when it’s a foot or so tall, plant long vined squash plants – I use butternut – and then 3-4 pole bean seeds around the corn plant. The technology here is that the squash, with large leaves, shades the roots of the corn and keeps them from drying out in the hot summer sun. The pole beans fix nitrogen, that’s what peas and beans do, so they actually provide living fertilizer to the corn. The pole beans wrap around and climb up the corn, not enough to bother the corn. The technique supposedly goes back to American Indians way, way back.

I now have 17 tomato plants growing – not counting the 2 patio plants. Is that over the top? Well if all 17 make it and produce as advertised, 17 plants is definitely over the top. Thing is, I don’t expect them all to make it and the 17 plants are made up of 6 different varieties, several of which I’ve never tried before. Six of the plants (3 varieties) are in the fire pit, an adjunct garden, which has steadily improved as I’ve worked the soil but which has still not been really good. This could be the break through year – in which case we will be way, way over the top in terms of tomato production. What I’m searching for are varieties that are dependable in this climate. Once I narrow it down, I can get by with fewer plants. I have big hopes for a variety tagged Bella Rosa and am hopeful that a new variant of Celebrity will also be tough enough to get it done but no guarantees on either.

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