|Corn (Zea mays)|
As I continue to think about Thanksgiving and the plants that play a part in the holiday, Indian corn decoration in my home caught my eye. Indian corn is one of my favorite fall/Thanksgiving decorations. I love the wide variation in color and the novelty of it.
Corn is an Americas native that has become a world wide food staple for humans and animals. There are four broad categories that corn can be divided into; field corn, sweet corn, popcorn and ornamental corn. Today's typical Indian corn is purely ornamental in nature, but the corn that the early explorers were introduced to by Native Americans was more like today's field corn or popcorn. Popcorn is one of the oldest forms of corn. Thanksgiving lore suggests that popcorn was a part of the first Thanksgiving, but while corn was present, my reading leaves a strong question as to the presence of popcorn at the first Thanksgiving celebration. Sweet corn is the newest addition to the corn family as it wasn't introduced until the 1700's.
All corn have the same basic needs no matter the type of corn you are growing. Plant corn in full sun after the soil has warmed to over 55F. As the plant grows, mound soil around the base of each plant every few weeks until it tassels to increase the stability of the tall plants. In a home garden, it is also wise to block plant rather than row plant corn so that the plants support and protect each other.
Corn is known to be a hungry plant so maximize your production by feeding it with 10-10-10 fertilizer or well composted, dry manure a couple of times during the season. It is optimal to side dress (fertilize) corn when it is knee high and again as it begins to tassel. To side dress, sprinkle fertilizer to the root zone about 4 inches away from the base of each plant. Any time you fertilize, be sure that it is watered so that the nutrients reaches the roots.
Watering is also critical. Corn looses a lot of water to transpiration (evaporation through the leaves) and to fruit production. Keep plants evenly and thoroughly watered, especially during the fruit production phase to maximize your harvest.
Consider co-planting corn in your backyard garden with early season plants like peas that are done by the time it gets tall. This maximizes your space and the peas have a symbiotic relation with a nitrogen fixing bacteria that will feed the corn as well.
Happy Gardening! :)