Saturday, March 31, 2012

How to Prevent Blown Over Corn

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If you follow my blog, you will learn that growing corn is one of my favorite things to grow.  Nothing compares to home grown corn, the taste is so much better than you can buy in the store.  I have a tab in my blog navigation dedicated to just corn.  I love corn! 

Despite my love for growing it, corn does come with its own share of problems.  Particularly for me it seems to always get blown over in strong wind and rainstorms.  Last year I posted on how to fix blown over corn.

This year I decided to do some research on how to prevent blown over corn.  I figured why not be a little proactive and maybe prevent the problem from happening.  I searched the web and I found a few suggestions, and the most common was to form a mound around each corn plant.  You form the mound when the plant is young and it forms more brace roots and doesn't blow over as easy.

This week I decided to give this method a try and see what kind of luck I have with it.  Below are the steps I used to create my mounds and I hope that it works.  It only took me about 30 minutes to "mound up" 125 feet of corn.  I will post an update at harvest time to let everyone know how it worked.

I have five rows of corn that are each 25 feet long.  I used my garden hoe to make furrows in between each row of corn.  This was to break up some dirt so it was easy to gather and form the mounds.
Close up view of my plants before forming the mounds,
most are about 4 to 8 inches tall.

The next step was to get on the old hands and knees and work my way down each row gathering up soil and forming mounds around each plant.

Here are the final results with everything done.  When I took this picture, two things popped in my head on the benefits of doing this besides helping the corn from getting blown over.  The first thing is I have nice little furrows between each row when I want to side dress my corn with nitrogen fertilzer.  The second was that I can use the furrows to run my drip hoses in between each row if I want.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Update on Seedlings

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My seedlings are trucking along and still growing.  My tomatoes are so tall they are touching my grow light and I have my chains as high as they will go.  The peppers and eggplants are doing OK, but they are growing much slower.  I have been taking them outside when I get home from work the last few days and they don't seem to mind too much.

I have a question.  At what point can I just leave my seedlings outside all the time?  I  know they have to be hardened off for a week or so.  It is just getting to the point where I am not going to have room for the tomatoes in the garden for at least another month and they will be huge by then.  I would like to keep them outside on my patio if possible.  The temps at night are in the 50's and highs during the day are 70 to 80's.

On a separate note, the "seedling" in my wife's belly will be here on Monday, April 2nd if everything goes as planned.  I may be out of pocket for a little while after that.
Jalapenos, Habaneros, Bell Peppers, and Eggplants getting some fresh air.

Here are my tomatoes

You can see they have reached the grow light

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Snow Peas and English Peas Ready for Harvest

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Today was a beautiful, sunny, and breezy Spring day.  We got a lot of rain yesterday and I think my peas and snow peas grew a foot overnight.  My trellis is 3ft tall and all three beds are at the top of the trellis.  My snow peas are loaded with pods and I should begin harvesting in the next day or two.  I planted the snow peas on January 3rd and the English peas a few weeks after.  I can't wait to eat some fresh in stir fry dishes.  I snapped a few pictures today in between cutting the grass.

Oregon Sugar Pod II Snow Peas
There are 13 flowers and pods in this little area the size of my fingers.

Overhead shot of the three beds.
Two are English Peas and snow peas are in the middle

It should be fun harvesting this jungle!

I was trying to take a nice shot with the sun shining through the vines

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Warmest March Ever

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I found the article below very interesting, and it isn't just our imagination.  This was the warmest March since record keeping began in 1871.  Wow, that is pretty significant.  Who knows, this could be the warmest March in 200 or 300 years because the records only go back so far.  Looks like I am not the only one Garden Gambling.

Link and excerpt below.

(Reuters) - Ethan Cox is sowing corn on his 5,000-acre Illinois farm earlier than ever this year, betting that the premium he may collect for delivering an early crop is worth the risk of a damaging late-spring frost.
Lured into the fields by what is so far the warmest March since records began in 1871, Cox is toiling alongside dozens of farmers across the Midwest who have begun seeding what may be a record crop weeks earlier than usual, according to agronomists, farm managers and analysts who keep close tabs on farm activity.
His crop may miss the peak summer heat of July and reap an extra 60 cents a bushel in September if his gamble pays off. Robust ethanol demand and years of low domestic inventories have placed a near-record premium on corn that can be delivered at the end of summer, when grain bins are empty and before the main harvest.

But the risks are high too: planting so early means forsaking some types of crop insurance; and despite the exceptionally mild winter, odds favor another chill at least once this year. Only once in the last century has the Midwest avoided frost between mid-March and mid-April.

"It's going in good but we have fear that it might come too quick and a frost will come and kill it," Cox said as he took a break from seeding the first 400 acres on his farm in Greene County southwest of Springfield.
While the vast majority of farmers will opt to wait until nearer April 15, the average last freeze date, anecdotal reports suggest a record number have already begun.

In theory, the early push puts more of the crop at the mercy of mother nature; in Chicago, however, traders are reckoning that eager farmers may decide to seed even more acres early with corn rather than saving space for soy.

The December corn contract, which reflects a harvest-time price, declined each day this week, shedding 3.4 percent to $5.55 per bushel, a two-week low, in a technical sell-off in addition to ideas aggressive planting will produce ample corn.

"The weather is so good thus far that there are reports, and we suspect very good reports, of corn being already planted in Iowa, Nebraska and Illinois," said influential investor Dennis Gartman.
He told Reuters this week that he sold a "very large" portion of his corn position.
Chicago traders said investment funds sold an estimated 36,000 contracts this week, the largest sell-off yet this year.

The stakes are higher than ever this year. Every bushel of a bumper U.S. corn crop is needed to replenish corn stocks, which are expected to shrink to the smallest in 16 years before the autumn harvest. Any harvest shortfall could send prices surging back toward their record of $8 a bushel, driving up costs for consumers and meat companies.

Summer-like conditions of clear skies and temperatures in the 70s and 80s degrees Fahrenheit have prevailed this month to stir farm activity weeks earlier than usual, farm experts say.
Soil temperatures across Illinois are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), which is necessary to promote seed germination, according to the Illinois State Water Survey.
It is unclear how many farmers have begun planting so far. USDA does not issue weekly planting updates until after its prospective plantings report, due March 30. That report estimates seeding intentions of the major U.S. crops.

"We probably have several thousand acres planted statewide, in that low 1-percent range," said John Hawkins, spokesman of the Illinois Farm Bureau. "It's more than a handful but less than a mad rush."
The state harvested 12.4 million acres last fall.

Last year, USDA put out its first corn plantings estimate on April 11, estimating overall plantings at 3 percent complete, with Illinois 1 percent done.

Most farmers in the Corn Belt do not begin planting corn until the first or second week of April, both because of the likelihood of a killing frost and for insurance purposes.

Crop insurance policies do not cover replanting costs if farmers plant before the earliest seeding date, which in most of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio is April 6. For top corn growing state Iowa, that date is April 11.
Corn plants can emerge in as little as five days after planting and once the plant is out of the ground it is at risk of being damaged by a frost or a hard freeze. A "hard freeze" of temperatures at or below 28 degrees F (-2 degrees Celsius) could kill a plant in less than five minutes.

The average last freeze in central Illinois falls on April 15, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Geelhart. In 1999, the last freeze was on March 29; in 2005, the ground froze in early May.

Elwynn Taylor, Iowa's state climatologist, said that only once, in 1946, during the past 100 years has there not been a frost between mid-March and mid-April.

"There's no reason for it not to be two times out of a hundred. We are hotter now than we were in 1936, so we are beating the Dust Bowl for this time of year," Taylor said.

Plantings also got off to early starts and quick finishes in 2004 and 2006. Yield results varied, jumping to 160.3 bushels per acre in 2004, up 18 bpa from the previous year, while the yield in 2006 climbed only 1.2 bpa from the previous year.

Early planted corn can begin pollinating by June, allowing the plants to go through a crucial development stage before the hot weather of July.

Meteorologists widely expect temperatures to remain above normal for the next week to 10 days, with the extended 14-day day forecast also hinting at the continuation of warm weather.

But the greater rationale for early planting is the opportunity to capture a premium for grains delivered to buyers like Cargill Inc or Bunge Ltd before the height of harvest.

Tight supplies last summer pushed cash corn prices to record highs across the region as grain buyers scrambled for the grain to supply the first purchases of U.S. corn by China in four years. Increasing demand from ethanol refineries, which now use 40 percent of the domestic crop, also has increased demand.
"This early planting means harvest will likely be early as well," said Karl Setzer, analyst at MaxYield Cooperative in West Bend, Iowa. "A result of this will be the ability to pick up the (price) increase in the market between old and new crop. In many cases this will add $1.50 of revenue to a bushel of corn."
Cox knows that too. He inked a contract to deliver 40,000 bushels, roughly 15 percent of his harvest, to an export terminal owned by CGB Enterprises Inc along the Illinois River in Naples.

If he delivers the grain in the first half of September, he will earn a 60-cent-per-bushel premium, bringing his total to $7.60 per bushel, a haul of $304,000. It would be his most valuable contract ever. If the corn is not ready until the second half of the month, he forfeits the premium.

"Our oldest daughter is expecting her second grandchild around the first of April," he says, "so I wouldn't mind getting the work done so I can spend a few days with them."
(Additional reporting by Julie Ingwersen; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fashion Azaleas

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Last year I planted 18 Fashion Azaleas along my east fence line.  They were small plants on sale at Home Depot for $2.49.  For the cost it was a good deal, but I don't know how great the quality was.  Out of 18 plants, 7 of them died last summer.  Granted it was a brutal August and I did my best to water, but maybe it was just too much for them.

My goal was to provide screening from my neighbors.  I hope in 5 to 10 years they will grow together to provide a nice screen.  I also love the color of this particular azalea. It is almost a reddish salmon type color.  They look pink in the pictures below, but they are definitely not pink.

So last week I decided to replace a few of the ones that died.  I purchased three new ones from a local nursery and I hope they make it.  The azaleas are starting to bloom now and they are really nice looking. 

Close up of flower

One of the plants loaded with blooms.

Here is the view along the fence line.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Garden Update - March 20th

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It has been a busy week in the garden.  These record breaking high temps have been great for garden growth, everything is exploding.  My snow peas and english peas have started flowering, and I hope to start harvesting by April. 

I have been busy planting too:
  • White zinnias around my mailbox
  • Pink Impatiens in my front door planters
  • Fashion azaleas around my fence to replace the ones that died last year
  • Yellow crookneck squash
  • More spinach and lettuce
  • Corn
  • Peas
Some good news and bad news, the good news is my white acre peas have germinated.  The bad news is I have got some birds or something plucking the little seedlings right out of the ground.  I found 3 or 4 broken stems on the ground.  Needless to say, the pellet gun is coming out.  I hope they don't destroy all my hard work.  All in all a great week.

Here is a shot of the english peas and snow peas.  I had to remove some of the pavers outlining the garden because they were obstructing the flow of water.  I also laid some top soil to level out the area.  

Oregon Sugar Pod II Snow Pea Flower

Alaska Pea Flower
White acre pea seedling, the birds didn't get this one.....yet.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What's wrong with this picture?

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What is wrong with the picture below?  No, those aren't our forecasted temperatures for May, that is our current 10 day forecast.  We broke a record high today of 84 degrees.  The thermometer on my car at one point said 89 degrees in some parts of town.  Really, I mean almost 90 degrees on March 15th, you have got to be kidding.

I hope this is not a sign of what kind of summer we are in for.  On the bright side, the warm temps are great for my corn and peas I planted a week ago.  Maybe it will speed germination.

Earthway Precision Garden Seeder Review - Model 1001 B

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When I decided to expand my upper garden area I knew I wanted to buy a precision garden seeder to make planting less labor intensive.  After checking out seeders and reading reviews on, I decided to buy the Earthway Model 1001 B Precision Garden Seeder.

I used it this past weekend to plant corn and white acre peas, and I am very pleased with the results.  You can click the link above to find detailed information about it, but I will try to explain how it works.

It is basically a two wheeled device that you push through the soil.  As you push it, it automatically makes a trench for the seed, picks up and drops the seed in the trench, and then covers it up.  It also makes a mark for the next row.  Everything on it is adjustable.  You can adjust the depth of the trench for your seed depth, you can adjust your row marker, and you can adjust how far apart you want your seeds planted.

It comes with six different seed discs that rotate in the seed hopper and grabs the seed and deposits it in the trench.  You can adjust how far you want your seed planted by covering holes in the discs with tape.  I just planted using all the holes, and will go back and thin if I need to.  I have read complaints that it only works in finely tilled soil, and I could see where that might be true.  I had no problems at all and it was worth the $90 bucks. 

I planted 125 feet of peaches and cream corn and 125 feet of white acres in less than 20 minutes.  That included having to switch out seed plates when I changed from corn to pea seeds.  It would have taken me 2-3 hours on my hands and knees to do it the hard way.

I am so happy with it, and I wish I had more area to plant.  I could easily plant a football field worth or corn in a couple of hours with this thing.  I will post an update on what kind of germination rates I get, but so far I am impressed.

Here is the seeder, very easy to use.

Here is the wedge plate below the seeder that makes the trench in the ground for the seed to fall into. I set the depth to 1.25 inches for my corn.  The chain drags the ground behind the wedge plate and covers the seed.

Here is the long extension rod that marks the ground for the next row.

Here is a picture inside the hopper and the disc plate.

Here was a picture after my first two rows of corn were planted.  You can see the first line on the left is already marked for me.  All I had to do was place the front wheel of the seeder in that mark and go.

Here is everything all finished.
Five rows of corn and five rows of peas.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Garden Gambling and Spring Planting

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What is garden gambling?  It is the term I use for pushing the envelope on how early I plant my seeds in spring.  As with any gamble, there is a risk but with earlier (notice I didn't say greater) rewards.  It all depends on how much you want to tempt Mother Nature.

So with my garden expansion project complete, I couldn't resist getting my corn and white acre peas in the ground.  Last year I planted my peaches and cream corn on March 19th, so this year I am early by about 8 days.  My planting chart from UGA recommends March 15th as the earliest corn planting date.  I checked the 10 day forecast and temps look good with no sign of frost.  Everything turned out fine last year, so I am hoping I will be ok this year too. 

Now my white acre peas on the other hand, I am probably way too early.  My planting chart from UGA recommends April 1st, so I am about two and half weeks early.  I have so many cow pea varieties I want to try this year, so I am taking a calculated risk by planting them so early.  If they germinate, I should be ok, but they may take a little longer to produce.

I planted five rows of corn and five rows of white acre peas in my new garden area.  I planted them using a new seeder I bought over the winter and boy was it a great investment.  The total length planted was 125 feet of corn and 125 feet of peas, and they were planted in under 20 minutes.  I will be posting a detailed review of my seeder in a few days.

Here is my new seeder

This was after I planted everything, straight and evenly spaced rows.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

God is the One Who Makes The Seed Grow

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I am a Christian, and I know enough to know that I don't know anything, and what I do know is only because of the grace of God. God is teaching me new things through His Word and His Spirit that lives inside me.  This week a piece of scripture moved me and it also is gardening related so that is why I would like to share it.

It is 1 Corinthians 3:4-9 from the New Living Translation
4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?
 5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

My Interpretation of this Scripture:
Paul is writing to the Corinthians and is explaining to them that just because he told them about Christ and just because Apollos continued that message, they should not say they are followers of Paul or Apollos.  They are followers of Christ, their Lord and Savior.  Paul planted the seed in their hearts by telling them about Christ.  Apollos watered that seed by continuing to preach the good news after Paul planted the seed.  But it is God and only God that makes that seed grow in a person's heart.  God's holy spirit makes that seed grow, the person who plants the seed of God's word and the person who waters it are only workers for God to achieve the same result.

This passage really moved me this week, it put some things into perspective for me.  It is hard when you pray so hard and witness to people that are unbelievers, especially for family and friends.  It reminded me that I am not the source of someone accepting Christ and becoming a believer.  Only God can make that happen.  I am just one of God's workers in His field and he makes the seeds grow in our hearts.  We can live our lives in ways that witness to others and we can preach the Gospel but we have to remember it is not about us, but about Him.  We are just His workers doing His work in His fields.

Obviously the metaphors here are strongly tied to gardening and easy to understand.  If you think about it, in life as Christians and as gardeners, it is a remarkable thing that you can plant a seed whether it be in the ground or in a person's heart.  To watch God grow that seed, whether from the ground into something useful, or in a person's heart into a life that is transformed by Christ is something magical and rewarding.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Garden Expansion Project - Part 2

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Today is the kind of day every gardener dreams of.  There was a clear blue sky and just a slight breeze.  It was sunny and about 65 to 70 degrees.  The perfect day to finish up my garden expansion project.  I went to Home Depot this morning and rented a mid size rear tine tiller.  I wasn't sure how long it would take me to till up the 400 square foot area.  I rented it for four hours, and that was a smart move.  The dirt up there is pretty decent compared to the Georgia clay in most of my yard.

After getting my neighbor to help me unload the tiller and get it in position, I was done in less than an hour.  I tilled the area for another hour until everything was tilled nicely.  Baby powder consistency, oh yeah!  I hit a few roots from the tree I dug up, but nothing major.  I was pretty surprised how easy it was.  I raked everything smooth and now I am ready to get some corn and peas in the ground. 

Here is the beast, cost me about 45 bucks for 4 hours.

Here is the area after the initial tilling of one hour.

This was a nice cinder block and concrete footer that came from something.  The tiller practically jumped out of my hands when it hit this.

Here are the roots I found that I missed when I dug out the tree stump.  There weren't that many.

Here is the area after tilling for another hour, it was perfect.

Here is the area after I raked it smooth.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Update on Seedlings - March 7th

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It has been three weeks since I started my own seeds.  Everything seems to be working the way it should be.  I find myself saying just one more tomato should be ok to up pot, just one more jalapeno plant, a few more eggplants.  It is just so hard to throw them away once you see them germinate.

So far I have moved to bigger card board pots the following:
3 Roma Tomatoes
3 Better Boy Tomatoes
3 Best Boy Tomatoes
4 Habanero Peppers
5 Jalapeno Peppers
2 Bell Peppers
3 Eggplants

The more I keep, the more I am struggling on where I will find space in the garden for it all.  My corn and peas take up a lot of space as it is.  I may end up growing some in containers, maybe my coca cola cooler can become a jalapeno and habanero coca cola cooler.

Here are the majority of the little guys

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Garden Expansion Project - Part 1

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The expansion of my upper gardening area has been a gradual work in process for the past nine months.  This area will give me 16 x 25 feet of gardening area for a total of 400 sq feet.  I will mostly plant field peas and corn up here.

In May of last year I cut down a 25 to 30 ft October Glory red maple tree that was shading the area, details here.  Then in January of this year, I removed the stump and most of the roots that were left, details here and here.

So here we are in March, and just a few weeks before I can start planting some of my favorites.  So today after church I had to get it in gear to finish my expansion.  All that is left to do is to till the entire area and put a border around it using bricks.  I got the border done in a few hours and tried to get everything as clean as I could.  I am going to rent a tiller next week and till the entire area. 

This is the existing area and you can see the four foot strip that I was using outlined by bricks.  Weeds were bad in a few spots.

First thing I did was measure down 16 feet from the fence line at both ends and drove a metal garden stake in the ground.  I tied a string to each stake to give me a straight line to lay my bricks.  I raked the area to get it as smooth as I could.  I am not going for perfection here, and I just dry laid the bricks to segregate the area that I will be gardening in.

This was how it looked after the first row of bricks were laid.  Looks straight enough for me.

This was after the second row of bricks.  Now all that is left is to till everything up.