Monday, July 25, 2016

Sweet Corn

Roasted and slathered in butter and herbs, nothing says summer more than sweet corn on the cob. Because corn is in the Gramineae family which includes grains and grasses, there are a few cultural practices to keep in mind when planting this crop.

Planting Sweet Corn: Corn needs full sun and good fertile soil.  It is a heavy feeder especially of nitrogen.  It has relatively shallow roots for a tall plant so it is sensitive to moisture fluctuations.  Since corn is wind pollinated it needs special consideration when spacing the plantings. Corn needs to be planted in blocks or 3 rows double planted to ensure good pollination and ear development.  It can be planted 2 weeks after the last frost of your area when soil temperatures reach 60 degrees.  A second and third planting can be made on Mother's Day and Memorial Day.  Always direct seed corn into the garden.

Jubilee sweet corn

Silver Queen sweet corn

Varieties of Sweet Corn

Hybrid sweet corn is planted most by the home gardener. Most people love the high sugar content of these corns. On the seed packet or in the seed catalogs sweet corns are one of 3 types SU standard sugary, SE sugary enhanced, or SH2 super sweet corn.  There are differences in these corns and choosing what will grow in your planting will result in success. 

SU Standard Sugary:  Lower sugar content.  Germinates in cooler soils. Easy to grow with good germination rates.  My favorite is Silver Queen with its white kernels, two to three ears on 7 ft stalks. Jubilee is a yellow corn with 2 ears on 7 ft stalks. Both are good fresh eating and freezing varieties.  These two varieties have proven productive and reliable in my garden They need 80- 92 days to mature and you need to stagger the planting so they don't cross pollinate.

SE Sugary Enhanced:  Higher sugar content, Maintains quality longer after harvested.  Good fresh eating and frozen.  Double Delicious

SH2 Super Sweet Corn:  Poor germination, extra sweet, Isolation required from SE and SU types.

Field Corns are dominate so if you are near a huge commercial field you will have to plant, if possible, so your corn does not tassel at the same time as the field corn.

Other types of corn:

Don't limit yourself to just sweet corn.  There are open pollinated, dent, flint, and popcorns.  Sweet corn is eaten in the immature milky stage while other corns are allowed to mature on the stalk until dried and used as a grain to grind into corn meal, animal feed, or popped.

Open pollinated:  If you prefer the old fashioned flavor of corn without the sweetness this is a good choice. One choice that is easy to find is Golden Bantam

Flint Corn:  Flint corn is also known as Indian corn.  There are colorful ornamental cultivars and those that can be used as polenta or ground into cornmeal.  Some varieties I have tried are Bloody Butcher, Hopi Blue, and Polenta
Polenta corn a flint corn

Popcorn:  Technically popcorn is a flint corn that is the best option for popping.  So you are not disappointed movie popcorn is the snowball type and pops bigger than mushroom type popcorns.  There are lots of fun popcorns to try in a variety of colors.  They are actually becoming popular as a gourmet treat.

Dent Corn:  As dent corn dries, a dent is formed in the top of the kernel.  Dent corns are used as animal feed, for corn syrup, and used to make biodegradable plastics.  This probably isn't the choice for the home gardener but and option if you have livestock.
Squash is a good companion with corn.
The tassel which produces the pollen.


Before planting  you need to understand how corn is pollinated.  All corn varieties are wind pollinated and will cross pollinate.  Pollen is produced by the tassel of the corn which is the male part.  A good healthy corn will produce one or more ears along the stalk of the corn.  This is the female part and includes the ear and the emerging silks.  The pollen must go from the tassel to the silk.  This is accomplished with the help of the wind.  Each pollinated silk becomes a kernel on the ear of corn.
The silks of the ear.  Each individually pollinated silk
becomes a kernel on the cob.

Corn pollen is extremely light and can be carried long distances by the wind.  As I mentioned all corn will cross pollinate.  If your corn is tasseling at the same time as your neighbors or a commercial field then chances are there will be cross pollination.

Concerning your neighbor who is probably planting sweet corn. If cross pollination occurs eating quality is affected.  If SU, SE, SU2 are planted together and tassel at the same time they will cross pollinate..  SE and sh2 types are recessive to su types.  Field corn, Indian, and popcorn are dominant.  If planting more than one variety they must have different maturity dates and tasseling times.

Watering and Fertilizing

Sweet corn requires regular consistent watering.  Watering is critical during tasseling, silk development, and ear formation.  Water stress results in stunted growth and poor flavor.

Work a dry fertilizer and compost into the soil before planting. Corn is a heavy feeder. Side dress corn when it is a foot tall with bone meal.  Side dress again when the silks appear.  Also fertilize with fish emulsion at these times.  Mulch when plant are young to keep the wind from drying the soil out.

Corn Earworms

Spinosad and Neem are effective against Corn Earworms.  Female moths lay eggs on tips of corn silks.  The larvae feed off the silks and move on down eating kernels.  They emerge and then pupate in the soil.  You can have 1-4 generations of these lovely creatures. The critical time to spray is when the silks begin to dry.  Focus the spray on the tips of corn and around the base of the corn.


Aphids can also be a problem.  An aphid infestation will result in lots of honey dew and can encourage the growth of black mold. The honeydew will attract wasps. While this rarely affects the quality of the corn because it is protected by a tight husk, it weakens the corn and is not pleasant to work around. 

Spinosad and Neem Oil are effective for both of these problems.

Ready to harvest with dry silks, tilted stock and plumb.


Harvest when the ears are plump, silks are dry, and ears tips out.  Enjoy! Sweet corn does not store well in the field.  It does not store long after it has been harvested.  The sugars turn to starch and that great sweet corn  flavor is lost. 

I remove the remaining stalk and some husks and keep it in the refrigerator but don't leave it there long.  Enjoy it fresh. 

To extend the season, I suggest planting two varieties and staggering the plantings so you can enjoy fresh corn longer.  The two varieties I like are Silver Queen and Jubilee.  Both are great for eating fresh and they both process well.  You can freeze corn on the cob or can it in a pressure canner.

Thursday, July 21, 2016




I love digging carrots. The smell of rich fertile soil and the sweet aroma  makes digging these  bright orange or deep purple tapered roots enjoyable.  After growing your own carrots, store bought carrots will seem bland and mealy.  A fresh carrot is sweet and so crisp.  This is one versatile crop I can't plant enough of.

Tips for Growing Great Carrots 

  • Carrots grow best in a soil free of clods and stones. The roots twist if the soil is rocky. 
  • Incorporate lots of organic matter. 
  • Do not use fresh manure it causes hairy roots.
  •  Excessive nitrogen will also cause hairy roots. 
  • Moisture fluctuations cause root disorders, slow leaf development, and bitterness.
  • Carrots germinate best when soil temperatures are 55-65
  • Poor germination results if temperatures are above 80 degrees
  • Carrots taste and grow best if they mature quickly before the heat of summer.
  • They do not like to be water stressed and need thorough watering


Some people have difficulty getting carrots to germinate.  They can be a bit temperamental.  Carrots need to be planted shallow and kept moist.  They are slow to germinate.  Plant by mixing with sand or peat moss and broadcasting over the soil.  This method will require thinning.  If you are not a fan of thinning then run  your finger in a line in the soil. Sprinkle seeds in tiny little furrow you made and gently brush a little soil over seeds. Do not plant too deeply. The seeds will not germinate if allowed to dry out so water frequently especially on a windy day. This is what makes them temperamental especially if you have winds that dry out the top layer of soil. To prevent drying out it is helpful to cover the area with a row cover or weed clothe until germination.  You can water right over the clothe.  Just be sure that you remove it when they begin to germinate. The clothe warms soil in addition to preventing the soil from drying out in the wind Continue to water at least 2x a day until seedlings are one inch high then you can reduce watering to once a day. 

Succession plant every two weeks in spring and then again in late summer for fall and winter crops. This will give you a continual harvest.


Carrots are harvested when roots begin to size up between 70-100 days.  Use a digging fork or hand trowel to loosen the soil or the carrots will break off.  Trim tops to 1”, brush dirt off and they store well in the refrigerator for months. Do not wash before storing unless extremely muddy. Do not store with apples or pear which give off a gas that makes the roots go bitter.  Most root crops store very well in the vegetable bin of your refridgerator.  Follow the same procedure for beets, parsnips, and turnips. If you are fortunate to have a cool basement or root cellar they are a great long term storage crops.  When it comes to storage not all carrots are equal to the task.  Let's learn about a few varieties and types of carrots. 


Most do well. My favorites are Sweetness III, Sugarsnax, Tendersweet,  Red Cored Chantenay, Cosmic Purple (only the skin is purple),  The baby carrots grow well and are coreless but not fun to peel. Purple Dragon is a gorgeous dark purple carrot all the way through and very sweet.  A good heirloom is St. Valery.  Mokum is a good juicing carrot

Uses:  Nothing beats eating garden fresh carrots, but they are also a great crop for long term storage and have numerous ways they can be preserved.  They can  be juiced and added to smoothies. You can steam carrots or roast them with other root crops.  They can be pressure canned and pickled in a water bath canner.

Good Companions:  Chives, Garlic, Leeks, Leaf Lettuce, Onions, Parsley, Peas, Radish, Rosemary, Sage, Beets, Tomatoes.  Dill is not a great companion for carrots.

Nutrition: One 7 inch long carrot has only 35 calories and supplies 270% of Vitamin A and 10% of vitamin C.

Types of Carrots:

The roots of carrot varieties vary in the way they grow, their storage life, and taste.  They are classified as Chantenay, Danvers, Imperator, Nantes, and miniatures.  The following is fro USU Extension office.

55 – 70 days, Cone shaped with broad shoulders and rounded tips.  Rich, sweet flavor.  Good storage . 

70 – 80 days, Thick rooted cylindrical shape, with yellowish cores.  Good for juicing and storing          
55-100 days, Long tapered roots with stocky shoulders.  Store well. Processes well and holds flavor 
55-70 days Straight roots 5-7 inches long.  Sweet flavor and crisp texture.  Limited storage but exceptional for fresh eating.
50-60 days     Less than 5 inches long can be cylindrical.  Quite sweet.  Difficult to peel.  Limited Storage 

I suggest planting a variety to use for fresh eating, processing, and storing.  You won't be disappointed.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Saving Dill Seed

If you have ever grown dill and let it go to seed, you are already a seed savers. Pretty easy, huh?  Congratulations! The hard part is remembering to harvest the seed so it doesn't self sow throughout your garden. I actually have dill scattered throughout my garden and pull it up where I don't want it.

Dill is a hardy annual grown both for it's leaves and seeds.  Dill leaves can be picked anytime.  They are delicious in sour cream dips, on vegetables, and potatoes.

If you plan on using a dill head in pickles, harvest when there are both flowers and unripe seeds.  Pickles are not the only way to use dill heads.  Try a dill infused vinegar.

 Dill seed is easy to save.  The seed can be saved for seed for next year. The seed is also used to flavor breads, pickles, and has medicinal uses. The seeds are a mild sedative and digestive aid.  Sucking on dill seeds can calm the digestive system. 

Dill water has long been used to calm colicky babies.  To make your own dill water, steep a teaspoonful of bruised seeds in a glass of hot water for  a couple hours.  Strain then sweeten the mixture.  Adults can take 1 Tbs and children 1 tsp.  (The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices)

The seed head of dill can also be dried and used as dill weed in cooking.  Add it at the end of cooking so the flavor is not lost in cooking.

 In my garden lace wings  (a beneficial insect)  love to lay their eggs on dill stems.  The larvae of the lace wing are voracious aphid eaters and therefor a gardeners friend. 

With so many uses dill seed is kind of a super seed and an easy way to start seed saving.

Below is a picture of lace wings eggs.  The look like lollipops.  The larvae look similar to lady beetle larvae.

Dill does not cross with any other veggies or herbs.  Different varieties of dill can be cross pollinated by insects.  If you want to try different varieties just wait to plant the second variety until he first has set seed.  This is called timed isolation.

A dill umbel or seed head.

Dill produces umbels.  Allow these to dry in the garden.  Harvest seed from fully mature dry umbels ( the seeds will be brown) whose stems are slightly green. Pick the entire umbel and place over trays to catch the seed.  Store the seed in a cool dry place if you are planning to replant.  Dill seed can be stored up to 5 years.  Remember germination rates decline with each year.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Good For You Garlic

Soft neck garlic ready to harvest.  Two or three leaves have turned brown.

Nice and large.  Garlic has not split and will cure and store well

You can cook with your garlic fresh. It must be cured for storage

Curing on a screen on my porch.

Garlic is an easy crop to grow and in my book an essential ingredient in most dishes.  In addition to being delicious it is also extremely healthy for you. 

Harvesting Garlic

Your garlic is ready to harvest when two or three of the leaves have turned yellow or the tops have fallen over. In zone 5 that is in early to mid July.  I use my small trowel to loose the soil around the garlic and gently pull it up.  Just brush some of the dirt off the remainder will be easier to brush off after the garlic is cured.  Do not rinse. 

Curing Garlic

To cure your garlic put the bulbs on a screen and keep outside away from direct sunlight.  This could take 1 to 2 weeks.  They are done when the skins are dry and paper-like and the necks are tight.  Brush remainder of dirt off, cut the tops leaving an inch of stem, and store in a cool dry place.  Garlic can store from 5- 8 months. 

Choosing Garlic:

There are hard neck, soft neck and elephant garlics.  The soft neck is what you buy at the grocery store.  The hard neck has a stiff neck with single cloves around the neck.  The soft neck has many more randomly placed cloves and is the one used in braids.  Elephant garlic is very mild with massive cloves.  There are many different varieties of soft and hard neck. 

To start with it is best to purchase from a garden center or mail order because you are starting out with a disease free crop. Late summer is the time to mail order because they sell out rather quickly.  Once you get a variety you are happy with you can save and plant the largest cloves. 


Garlic needs to be planted in the fall one to two months before a freeze. I usually plant in October. You can mulch over if desired. Plant 3-4 inches deep if not mulching.  Make sure the pointy side is up.  In the spring it will start sending up green shoots the same time as daffodils.


Garlic likes a soil rich in organic matter and even moisture.  Hard neck garlic sends up a flower bud called a scape.  Cut those off with scissors so the energy of the plants is directed to bulb and clove formation. You can actually cook with scapes if you desire.  

Friday, July 1, 2016

Nanking Cherries

The nanking cherry is both ornamental and edible.  It is beautiful and provides small bright red cherries that are great in pies, jams, syrups, and jellies.

The nanking cherry also know as the Manchu cherry, can be a twiggy shrub or pruned as a small tree.  It is useful in windbreaks and edible landscapes.

Very easy to grow, the nanking cherry is very hardy.  It is both cold tolerant Zone 2 and heat tolerant.  It tolerates winds and dryness.  If grown as a shrub it will be from 6-10 feet wide and tall.  It can be pruned into a small tree but does sucker a lot.

The white powder is kaolin clay or Surround that acts as a insect deterrent and is used in organic orchards

The fruit ripens in early summer here in zone 5.  It is densely packed on the branches and a beautiful bright red. It lacks a stem like pie or sweet cherries and grows along the lateral branches.  The fruit is marble sized so it is best used juiced and used in jellies and syrups.  Juicing is easy just wash and add a small amount of water to the bottom of a pot.  Simmer, mashing the cherries with a potato masher on occasion.  Then strain through a jelly bag and use in jelly or syrup.

This little ruby red fruit is so easy to harvest because it is so densely packed.  Just hold a bucket under the branch.   Birds love this cherry so make sure beat them to the harvest.  You can eat them fresh if you like a tart tangy cherry.  I prefer to use them in jellies and syrups.

They can have problems with aphids so be sure to use a dormant oil and then monitor for aphids. If aphids become a problem spray with Neem oil and a product with spinosad before the leaves begin to curl.