Thursday, July 30, 2009

It Just Isn't Right

(Three posts this week If you've missed The Facts Of Life you should back track. You might of missed something.)

It just isn't right. The corn is up to my waist and tasseling. That's why I'm not smiling in the photograph. My garden needs some warm weather and I don't think we're going to get much.

I took this picture to emphasize my point. That is tomatoes behind the volunteer corn stalk. The seed brand touts that it is a good cold emergence species. That looked pretty good to me when I ordered a pound from the seed company and it did well last year passing in height my five foot seven inch frame. But obviously, emerges well in cold soil and grows well chilled are not synonymous.

This year, Kirk's folks planted corn eight days apart and the second planting is twice as tall as the first. Just for those asking how come, I'll explain what I've learned. The experts say that shade, length of daylight hours, and temperatures effect the length of corn. In other words, they need enough shade to cause them to reach for the sun, lots of water, and plenty of hours of sunlight to grow in, plus warmth - lots of warmth. That's what we've been missing this summer is warm temperatures. Also, timing is everything. If your corn has five visible leaf collars then that is when corn elongation begins. Prior to that the roots are the ones mainly growing. Cold weather hit us at this vulnerable stage and you can see what happened.

I think I'll do what Kirk's folks did and plant part of my corn a week apart. In this county, one if not both of them is bound to hit a cold spell but then again one can always try.

What bothers me most isn't the height but the promises of seven to eight inch ears that isn't going to happen. I've never had short corn and big ears. Is it possible?

And, as if cold weather isn't bad enough, I found Smut in the middle of my corn patch. Remember the facts of life I told you about? Well, I left out the dirty part. Here it is. The nasty fungal infection called Smut destroys ears, stalks or stems of your corn and it is all because of that grasshopper in the upper right hand corner of the picture, almost. Insects, hail, dry weather (which we just had a bout of) and corn planted in lots of manure are the cause of the fungal infection that plagues corn.

There doesn't seem to be a cure for Smut so I cut out the unsightly growth. If I leave it, it will rupture spewing spores that can remain viable for five to seven years. About as long as the news reports say we're to be tormented by the grasshoppers.

It is said that Mexicans think this growth is a delicacy to eat, tastes like mushrooms. Sometimes, I think people will eat anything.

I'm pretty clear on how to handle Smut but the corn suckers pictured growing out the sides of the base of the corn plant I'm not convinced the experts know what they're talking about. We live in a part of Wyoming where the soil is poor and the University page I referenced said leave them because they won't do any harm. But, I question do they do any good? My corns having a hard enough time gaining any height without feeding them too. Should I pluck them or shouldn't I? Maybe, I should take a poll or is there an experienced gardener who's reading this blog and can direct me as to what I should do?

The suckers on the tomato plants on the other hand I know what to do with - get rid of them. They use up nutrients your tomatoes need and block the sunlight from reaching the center of the plant.

I prefer the types of tomatoes that naturally don't have suckers but aphids destroyed the plants I started in the house. My choice that day in the commercial greenhouse was Big Boys or Big Boys so, I bought Big Boys. Keeping a third of the plant trimmed out while fighting the suckers makes these plants very needy and I'm a lazy gardener. They also aren't loaded like my Roma's have been in the past. I don't think they'll be back next spring, unless they volunteer. I'm a sucker for a volunteer.

Note the sucker in the fork of this tomato stem.

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