Heather here

I’ve been spending a lot of time in our corn patch. I’d say it’s been entirely too much time, however I really like touching the shiny purple silks.

Being in the corn patch is decidedly less peaceful when all the beautiful silks are covered in japanese beetles. The beetles were mainly congregating on the corn silks. Munching ’em down to the nubs. I kept knocking them into buckets, and sent out an email on the listserve asking if anyone had heard of a way to stop the beetles. The responses came back with neem oil can help, but really if they are just eating the silks it isn’t a huge deal…if adequate time for pollination has occurred. Our Agricultural Education Coordinator says that 5 days is enough time.

When applying neem oil, mineral oil, or BT to prevent worms in the corn, one should wait 5 days after silks are fully developed…this insures that your chemicals will not get in the way of pollination.

Which then lead me to read about how a corn plant reproduces.

Although it may seem elementary, these basic discussions and thinking about plant anatomy can help gardening click in people’s heads. One participant asked why the corn needs a tassel or silks or why the Japanese beetles eating that part is a big deal–if all she wants is the actual corn-on-the-cob, why does the plant even bother to create all these other parts? Why does it matter?

very orderly and straight

Bug Bucket. Add dish soap to break surface tension

Look at that bi-color beauty 

The tassel–branches covered in many little male flowers

Like windmills

Do you see his bee basket? This pollinator is hard at work

Close-up of sunflower row next to corn patch

This lead to a discussion about the various functions each part of the plant performs, and how the plants work with each other, wind, insects, self-pollination, open pollination, and so on. Each tassel is made up of hundreds of tiny male flowers that all contain pollen granuals, falling on the multitude of silks in the field–and each individual kernel of corn has its own silk, all which need to be pollinated .That’s a lot of silkage. A lot of pollination needs. No wonder a person should plant at least 4 rows of corn for adequate pollination to occur! Talking about it brought it home to people I think, that plants need their entire structure, and thinking about how the parts work together can get us to be better farmers. No knowledge, no food.

In other news, we had a meeting in which we all sat in a circle and exchanged our ups and downs so far of the season, and what participants thought would be most useful, what they wish they’d done differently, what they would like to see in the future, and so on.

It’s the time of year where people are beginning to harvest quite a bit and rotate crops, so we went over tracking your harvest and taking notes and creating a garden map with a crop rotation plan. We were supposed to seed flats of our fall brassicas, but the flats had still not arrived. We hope to seed them this week with volunteers from a local college–Emory and Henry. The school is also letting us use their greenhouse and will water the plants for us.

We planted our last succession of watermelon in the educational template garden (We are trying for 3) and will plant more beans soon. It is crazy how fast the bean beetles go after them.

That’s it for now, happy gardening