According to the Illinois Farm Bureau, approximately 12.6 million acres of corn were grown last year. And this year I couldn’t even grow 16. Plants that is, not acres. You know how it goes. Or maybe you don’t and it’s just me, but I envisioned ear after ear of glass gem corn long before I ever sunk a seed into the soil. My Instagram feed would be full of unusual ears with kernels that looked more like pearls than traditional yellow corn. How hard could it be? Corn grows in Illinois like kudzu grows in Georgia.
Every year I like to try something new. My something new showed up at my master gardener’s seed swap last February. There in a bowl sat hundreds of corn kernels in colors I had never seen. So I filled an envelope full of kernels without a clue as to how to grow it.
My vegetable garden is small, just two 4’x8′ raised beds connected by a hog panel trellis and the space was already planned out for the coming season. But I had two brand new Earthboxes and a vision of a bountiful fall harvest. I really wasn’t sure how they’d do with a tall crop like corn. As it turns out, that was the easy part.
The Earthbox came with a manual that included planting grids specifying the number of plants recommended for, in my case, the original gardening system. For corn, two rows of eight plants. At just 29″ long and 13.5″ wide, it seemed like a lot for such a small space. The corn liked it just fine and was up in a matter of days.
Small spaces in full sun heat up fast, creating a perfect environment for lightening fast germination. They also dry out faster than in-ground plantings, but the corn thrived and was satisfied with a twice-a-week watering schedule. The Earthbox has a three-gallon reservoir in the base that allows plants to wick moisture as needed. My Earthbox came with fertilizer so I never fed the corn.
By the way the corn grew, it didn’t seem to be a problem and I highly recommend this growing system for small space gardens or for those of you just starting out and looking for a no-nonsense approach with a high success rate. Click this link here to see the variety of Earthbox growing systems.
Every time I blinked, the corn seemed to grow another six inches.
A stalk on the end of the Earthbox flopped so I offered support with Velcro plant ties, running it behind the fence pickets and around the 16 stalks that looked better than the acres of corn planted on the periphery of our neighborhood.
Tiny ears with the most beautiful red husks swelled on the stalks, most had one but some had two ears. As my excitement grew, I resisted the urge to peel back the husk for a sneak peak at the magic inside. It felt a lot like Christmas when you’re a kid, eyeing up the presents under the tree and wanting so desperately to know what’s inside those perfectly wrapped packages. Instead, I waited. I never thought I’d have visions of corn dancing in my head. But that’s the way with gardeners. We want what we want, for no apparent reason other than the satisfaction of having grown something beautiful, or interesting, or just because. This corn checked all those boxes. And then something completely out of my control threw a monkey wrench into my plans.
Mother Nature churned up 65 mph winds one afternoon in early August. By the time the hour-long assualt ended, my corn was ravaged and I swore I’d never speak to her again. I was totally disgusted. But after the frustration passed, I accepted my inferiority. I’m just a gardener trying to manipulate my environment. Nature reminded me that I’m not in control and that despite my best efforts, things can always go awry.