It’s dry and windy and hayfever weather here today, and I wonder whether our water supplies will hold out for what is shaping up as a very dry year. Last year I planted the corn out directly, making a little hollow in the mulch, digging a single forkful of the composty soil beneath, planting two seeds per station and weeding out the weaker one as they grew. It’s wasteful of seeds, and hard to sacrifice all those babies, but if you only plant one seed per spot any non-germinations leave a gap. And you always lose a few, to birds or mice or drying out or just the luck of genes.
This year I’m planting all my corn in the shadehouse in little leaf tubes I make out of the leaves of a decorative plant I need to prune regularly, secured with twigs and filled with a mix of compost, worm castings, and a little bit of creek sand for drainage. This is the second round for the year, and I’ll get another one or two next month and the one after.
Partly it’s so that I can plant out only the ones that germinate and are strong and healthy, in a nice close pattern in a block with no gaps.
Partly it’s to conserve space, or rather space-time. Corn is wind pollinated and won’t self pollinate. It does best in a block of at least a few dozen plants, with enough warm dry weather when it flowers (at the top) so the wind can blow the pollen from one plant around the silks of the corn on its neighbours. So it needs some space. And corn is also a heavy feeder so any old space won’t do. The chooks are still busy clearing and fertilising the bed I want to plant these out into.
But mostly this year it’s to conserve water. If I planted them out, I’d be watering a whole bed every day, even twice a day in this hot dry weather. I can keep this box of seed well watered in the shadehouse till they are nice strong little plants with well developed roots. I shall plant them out by digging a little hole and putting the leaf tube in it, then pulling the soil and mulch back in around. If I am lucky enough to get some rain before planting, I’ll water them in but from then on they’ll only get the sprinkler about once a week in dry weeks.
Besides the corn, I’m potting up the tomatoes, eggplants, and capsicums I planted last month. They’ll grow on in pots for another few weeks before they need to be planted out and by then it might have rained.
A couple of La Niná years and you forget just how precious water is.