Gone! All gone! …good riddance!

It’s gone.  After a couple of days of not wasting any more water on it, we pulled it out.  I hate it when a crop doesn’t turn out.  We yanked and pulled and in the end we took shovels to it.


I have to say, it wasn’t exactly easy.  My three oldest boys came out with me to help.  I never have a shortage of helpers when it comes to demo in the garden.

There were a couple of very sparse ears, that had… something going on.  Not full ears, but nearly.  They were few and far between and didn’t take well to being starved of water the last couple of days.


Those ones were a lot more rare than ones like this that… well, I don’t even know what to say about this.


Needless to say, I have not figured it out yet when it comes to corn.  I have a plan, should I choose to follow it, for next year.  We’ll see…

This entry was posted in Arizona Garden, desert garden, Growing corn. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Gone! All gone! …good riddance!

  1. What a shame.

    We had a dismal year last year when it came to corn. This year it took forever to get any seedlings through to the planting out stage but we eventually put 8 out in May and the remaining 18 went out in Mid/late June. I’m not entirely convinced that any of them will amount to anything but I have my fingers crossed. We’d been quite successful with sweetcorn up to last year but I guess that’s how it goes.

    So what are you planning on doing with the space now?

  2. LuckyRobin says:

    I’d think it would be all but impossible to grow corn in such a hot location, especially with it being such a water hog.

    • You would think, but we have literally MILES of corn fields just a couple of miles from our house. Thick and tall. In fact some of the fields just got harvested. Corn is actually a pretty big deal around here. The farmers have access to flood irrigation and so they just flood the corn.

  3. Caleb says:

    This is quite the mystery. I think it is a big clue that your corn fell down. That just isn’t right. The only time corn should have anything to do with falling down is when it is used to make bourbon.

    Did you notice if, down at the bottom of your stalks of corn, the stalks had these thick roots, like so many props sticking out and down into the soil, at about a 45 degree angle? If your corn didn’t grow those little prop-roots, it might explain why they fell down.

    But why the heck wouldn’t the corn grow the prop-roots?

    My first guess would be some lack of nutrients. Corn are heavy feeders. I use a lot of manure, which supplies nitrogen and stimulates the greenery, but the roots? Ordinarily that suggests phosphates, but one thing I know about corn is that they require a lot potash (potassium.)

    If you are distrustful of chemical fertilizers, it is hard to find a good organic source of potassium, however one good source is corn cobs. I would assume that if corn cobs supply a lot of potassium, growing corn sucks up a lot of potassium as well.

    How about having a sort of family corn-on-the-cob-fest? (I’ll leave it up to you figure out the excuse for it.) Save all the cobs, (there ought be a heap of cobs, if you promise ten dollars to whoever eats the most corn-on-the-cob by September first.) Then grind the heck out of those cobs, add it to compost, and add the compost to the soil where you next plant corn. (You have to break up the cobs, for otherwise they are slow to rot.)

    My second guess is that a lack of prop-roots would have something to do with soil moisture. What? At this point my brain is blank.

    If your corn does have those prop-roots, and still falls over, then the problem may be a corny version of “wilt.” Maybe we should expect that,. at temperatures of 115. Corn sucks up a lot of water. (Around here, on a dry year, the corn is much shorter, but I haven’t yet seen it fall over.)

    If you can’t do “flood irrigation,” when the temperature is that high, I’d try your “stick a bottle upside down” version of drip-irrigation, with lots and lots of bottles, and also lots and lots of mulch to stop water from evaporating from around the corn’s roots.

    Lastly, you might get away with planting corn at the very start of “Monsoon Season,” and still get a crop before what you folk call “winter.” That would avoid the extreme heat. Some versions of corn produce in less than seventy days.

    Fight the good fight, and never surrender. The day you succeed, a mere seven plant by seven plant block of corn will give you 49 ears better than even the best farm-stand corn.

    (By the way, the gaps on the ear of corn in your picture represent kernels that didn’t get fertilized. Corn is completely wind-fertilized, and in a small patch it is well worth your time to break off the pollen-producing tops of stalks, and dust the silk of the ears. Otherwise the wind might be blowing your pollen away into the neighbor’s yard.)

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Hi there! Followed you home from FarmGal’s site. When I was a kid, I remember a family friend (who was from multiple-generations of farmers) telling my Dad to ignore the depth recommended on the packet and “bury that seed as deep as your finger can push it”. From then on, the corn never fell over and was a lot healthier as all those “prop roots” were actually below grade, where they could pull more moisture/nutrients from the soil (and hold up the plant; )
      Corn should be planted a minimum of three rows side-by-side and across the prevailing winds, because, as you said, it is wind pollinated. Your friend was also right about the three sisters… Pumpkin(or squash) to shade the soil, preserve water and help to keep the coons away from your corn; beans (pole beans that is, not the bush type; ) to fix nitrogen to feed all three and corn for the beans to climb so they’re easier to pick, stay clean and don’t get rust – not that you’d be likely to have a problem with rust in Arizona.
      About natural sources of potassium? Composted organic materials and wood ash. Magnesium? Bulk Epsom salts from your nearest farm supply/feed store. Nitrogen? Used grounds from your local coffee shop are a great source: ) Oh, and we rinse, air-dry and crush our egg shells for a calcium amendment and a slug/snail deterrent (but you probably wouldn’t have that problem down there either; ) Good Luck!

  4. Caleb says:

    Here are the Google-images for “prop roots,” so you will know what I was talking about.


    I couldn’t see any in your pictures.

    Are you going to tell us your plan for next year? (I’m a curious cat.)

    • Thanks for the info, Caleb, that was all good stuff. Yes, the corn definitely had prop roots. Holy cow were those things stuck in the ground. I noticed that when the corn was falling over it wasn’t at the base, but was further up the stalk, which also leads me to some type of nutrient deficiency (which gives me an odd guilty feeling, like I’m a bad parent or something). The potassium makes a lot of sense (if corn cobs are high in potassium), because of the picture with the mangled cob. I had preloaded the area in advance with about 10 cubic feet of just aged manure and some additional compost, but maybe potassium was still lacking. I definitely think watering was an issue and part of the plan for next year (which I’ll have to put a post up to cover) will involve a better “basin” to be able to flood the corn for watering. Pollination was definitely an issue as well, I would do some hand pollinating next year. Many of the big Ag farms around here do plant two crops a year. The second one hasn’t gone in yet, but I expect to see them any time now. As always I appreciate the thoughtful advice and would love any follow ups if you get an epiphany.

  5. erikamay85 says:

    Why did you plant next to a wall? Was that to provide shade to reduce water needs?

    I’m not corn expert, but the corn not being fertilized is a big problem. I had a small patch and didn’t hand pollinate. A few ears turned out great, but most had spots without seeds because not enough pollen ever reached those ears. This year I have a bigger patch but still small and ill probably hand pollinate.

    The Natives in Arizona planted corn three sister style: maybe that would work better for you? A Mexican friend explained that planting corn and pumpkins together worked because the pumpkin would grow big fast and provide shade for the small corn that is still weak, and as it grows stronger it grows above the protection of the pumpkin’s shade. In Mexico they plant corn in March before the rainy season.

    • Great thoughts, erikamay85! I planted the corn next to the wall because… well, that’s the only spot I had. I would have preferred the other side of my yard, but I have three citrus trees there. Since the corn was on the west side of the east wall they missed the cooler morning sun and were blasted by the afternoon furnace. Probably not the best scenario. They also got hammered by a strong west to east wind on several occasions.

      Hand pollinating will definitely be in the future.

      I hadn’t actually heard of the three sister method until after I had planted. Not sure what the highly invasive squash plants would do to the corn since they seem to mow down everything in their path, but it’s not a bad thought. Our absolute drop dead freeze date is April 1st. Which seems pretty late, but I have seen a hard freeze the last weekend in March (and snow on nearby mountains if you can believe that).

      In this case, the area that I planted wasn’t really getting full sun until the first of April anyway, so I had waited for that reason alone.

      • erikamay85 says:

        I live in Oregon, so the earliest we can get the corn in is May 15th. I didn’t get mine in until Mid-June. Mexico has a very different climate from Oregon (and lots of different climates!) So April isn’t bad. I’ve been growing Painted Mountain corn which is made for high mountain growing and a 90 day corn. Its a flour corn, but I’ve had luck with it so far. Its pretty fool hardy.

        As to the three sister method I’ve heard both to plant beans with the squash and corn, but my Mexican farmer friend said, ‘No! It will strangle the corn! Plant it before the corn, then the next year plant the corn.” Mess around and try what works. So places the Natives made little “hills” for each squash and 3 corn stalks and put a dead fish in the center for fertilizer. Totally depends on your climate. If I were you I’d use it as an excuse to got to Navajo land and meet some older farmers and how they do it in your climate. But….thats me. 😛

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