Summer Week #12: Wednesday, August 27th– Group B EOs
Never have we had such an awesome year for sweet corn!
This will be the 5th straight week sweet corn has gone in the boxes. And we’re hoping for one more week, but alas, the raccoons have discovered the final planting.
CSA members and market customers alike have been inquiring about our great corn season. What has made this year so good?
The answer: a combination of the variety, strong starts, favorable weather, irrigation, new equipment, and organic pest control.
Variety: Mirai. A variety developed for the taste-conscious Japanese market. We discovered it many years back. It’s consistently sweet, delicious, and holds its sweet flavor longer than many other varieties.
Strong starts Most farms direct seed sweet corn, meaning they plant the seed directly into the field. We actually seed our sweet corn into flats in our greenhouse. When they are about 8 inches high, we transplant them into the field. When we transplant, we can ensure a strong stand. When we used to direct seed, often ground that was too cold and/wet would lead to poor germination. By using the greenhouse, we can also start the corn a little earlier than we could if we were going straight outside.
Favorable Weather Our mild summer has been a good one for many plants. Plants often slow or stop photosynthesizing in intense heat, but with these mild temperatures the corn is super happy.
Irrigation From mid-July to mid-August we had little to no rainfall. We were running our irrigation system heavily during those weeks. So the corn did not suffer from any lack of moisture.
New Equipment A couple of years ago we invested in a used 2-row carousel transplanter. This implement hooks up to the back of a tractor. At the ground level, it makes a furrow, releases water, and buries a seedling at the spacing you set it at. Above ground, two individuals sit in seats and drop seedlings into a rotating carousel which drops the plants one at a time into the furrow. This transplanter allows us to plant 8000 corn plants in about 4 labor hours (3 people times 1 hour and 20 minutes).
In past years, we had to use a tractor to cultivate between the rows of corn and then go in with manual labor to hoe the weeds in the row. This last year we purchased a really cool piece of equipment made in Germany called the K.U.L.T. finger weeder (click for video). In one pass, this piece of equipment cultivates between row and in the row at the same time. We have eliminated all manual labor in corn weeding. If you click above you can see a video of what this thing does. It’s way better than my trying to describe it. Mike and I can operate this together and cultivate a planting of corn (8000 plants) in about 25 minutes. Each planting had to be cultivated twice on average.
Organic Pest Control Thankfully, many of corn’s insect pests – e.g. corn borer and corn earworms – can be controlled with a mainstay of organic production: Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt is a naturally occurring bacterium common in soils throughout the world. Several strains can infect and kill insects. Because of this property, Bt has been developed for insect control. And is organically approved. At present, Bt is the only “microbial insecticide” in widespread use. Bt is considered safe to people and nontarget species, such as wildlife. It does not persist in the environment.
It is thanks to our boom sprayer and bt that our ears of corn have been freer of bugs than any other season we have grown sweet corn. We usually have to spray the planting one time, and it keeps about 85% of the ears bug free.
We hope you continue to enjoy your sweet corn and are freezing the corn you can’t use for later winter enjoyment! Three cheers to a great corn year. May the raccoons not devour the next planting before it’s ready….
Enjoy your veggies!
Cassie, Mike, kiddos and crew