Branching Out's Seeds and Sprouts

Branching Out

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Gardening is a big part of my life. I just LOVE to dig in the dirt, and for the last couple of years I have taken a deep dive into learning about how to grow my own flowers and vegetables instead of purchasing transplants. This has proved to be more interesting and rewarding than I ever could have imagined-- and it all started with some seeds. I hope this thread inspires others to stick a seed in the dirt to see if it grows!
 

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Branching Out

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I garden in the Pacific Northwest where February is usually the last real month winter. The snow crocuses have just started to bloom, and other spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils are starting to push through the soil. Currently our temperatures are staying above freezing both day and night, but later this week there is going to be a blip with an Arctic outflow bringing overnight temperatures of -9C (16F). This is kind of messing me up, becasue I have trays of greens waiting to get planted out, and there is no way they would survive -9C. I have made a note on my planting chart to start these seeds 2-3 weeks later next year, and for now I will hold them in their trays so I can bring them indoors when the deep freeze hits.
 

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Branching Out

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Yesterday I went to my very first Seedy Saturday, which was held outdoors under a pop-up tent in one of the local community gardens. There was a small but enthusiastic group of gardeners dropping by despite the drizzly weather. I brought some seeds for sharing, and came home with a pocket full of Painted Mountain Corn seeds. Growing flour corn was not in my plans for this year, but I was drawn in by the jewel-like colours and by the story of how Dave Christensen spent 40 years developing it in the mountains of Montana. They say it can be planted very early and grown without additional irrigation, so I may give that a try.
 

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Zeedman

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Yesterday I went to my very first Seedy Saturday, which was held outdoors under a pop-up tent in one of the local community gardens. There was a small but enthusiastic group of gardeners dropping by despite the drizzly weather. I brought some seeds for sharing, and came home with a pocket full of Painted Mountain Corn seeds. Growing flour corn was not in my plans for this year, but I was drawn in by the jewel-like colours and by the story of how Dave Christensen spent 40 years developing it in the mountains of Montana. They say it can be planted very early and grown without additional irrigation, so I may give that a try.
Can't vouch for the part about being grown without irrigation, since I tend to get precipitation every month of the year - and in Spring & Summer, often to excess. But what I like about "Painted Mountain" is that it tassels so early, that if planted on time, it is unlikely to cross with any of the GM field corn grown nearby. I've grown it the last two years, and got a decent yield from a fairly small area (about 130 square feet). A beautiful corn, and grinds easily into cornmeal just using a blender.
 

Branching Out

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A beautiful corn, and grinds easily into cornmeal just using a blender.
Zeedman I saw the photos on another thread that you posted of your Painted Mountain ears, and I can hardly wait to grow an ear of corn that is that beautiful. I will have to find a way to beat the rodents and raccoons to the corn though. They often harvest the corn crop a few days before it is ready for human consumption. 🙁

Do you think it could work to bag the ears with a fine mesh fabric once they were well-formed? Or would that interfere with their development? I don't fully understand the pollination process/timeline with corn. All I know is that each strand of silk on a tassel corresponds to one corn kernel on the cob.
 

AMKuska

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I think that would interfere. The tassles on the top of the corn are the male parts of the plant. When you shake them (or the wind blows) the pollen that falls down pollinates the silks down below. A pollen has to touch every single silk thread for full pollination. That's also why too few corn = poor pollination. Not enough pollen flying around to get every silk thread.
 

digitS'

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Do you have Marmot that frequent your garden? I know that the further north one lives, the lower the elevation where Marmots may be your neighbors here in the West.

The raccoons show up most years and "sample" the neighbor's sweet corn. Mostly, it is the more mature ears that he has bypassed. Why they weren't a problem for me when I grew Painted Mountain for a couple of years, I don't know.

Marmots may be another story. However, I learned when I was a community gardener on park department land where we were not even supposed to "harass" the varmints that it takes a few seasons for them to learn to eat something new. This may have been because i did my best to fence them out even though one or more managed to dig their way in before the end of each season. Also, be advised that I didn't grow corn there.

Painted Mountain might be well worth your while.

Steve, Marmot Harasser
 

Branching Out

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There are marmots near the Fraser River, living in the rocky border of the water. I know someone who worked at the docks, and they would bring fresh vegetables to feed the families of marmots that lived there. Turns out marmots don't like kale, but they love lettuce. Seems to me they hibernated each year, from mid-summer through to the following spring. One species, the Vancouver Island Marmot, is the most endangered species in Canada. https://marmots.org/

So while there are marmots around here they are no where near my garden. From what you describe I am wondering if raccoons might prefer sweet corn to flour corn. That would be a huge plus. No matter what though I am going to grow this gorgeous corn and see how it goes.
 

Zeedman

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So while there are marmots around here they are no where near my garden. From what you describe I am wondering if raccoons might prefer sweet corn to flour corn. That would be a huge plus. No matter what though I am going to grow this gorgeous corn and see how it goes.
Unfortunately, raccoons like corn in the milk stage - and all corn goes through that stage as the ears develop. :( To some extent, I think they (and deer, and birds) keep coming back once they learn that something they want is in the garden. So it is important to discourage them from entering (and tasting) initially. Electric fencing is effective to provide that discouragement.

In my rural garden, raccoons ruined my first corn crop, pulling down stalks & taking a bite or two from nearly every ear. I put up a fence with chicken wire low, and the first electric wire just above that, to keep animals from climbing over. It worked for a couple years. But to till the garden, I take down 2 sides of the fence - which then needs to be re-erected. I was late re-running the wire one year, only turning on the fence when damage to the corn began. It was too late; the raccoons, having tasted the corn, apparently put up with the shocks to get more (and this was a strong fence charger). After that, I made a point of getting the fence up & charged early, and never had another raccoon incursion.

I think that the local food supply is also a factor in whether or not raccoons will attack corn. My suburban gardens are fenced with welded wire to 6 feet, with chicken wire low to keep out rabbits. I know raccoons wander my property, because I've caught a few while trying to trap ground hogs. Although I've never used electric fencing there, the raccoons have yet to attack the corn. Not sure if that is because they get their fill from scavenging garbage locally, or whether they just don't like dry corn... but as the saying goes, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. :)

Oh, and deer have a good memory too. If they get stung a couple times early in the season, they remember. I can turn off the fence in mid-summer, and they will still avoid the wires. You still need to take measures to discourage them from jumping over though, they will clear a 6' fence if they see a clear landing point on the other side.
 

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