Wednesday, July 30, 2008

adventures in nonconventional corn growing

Our 3-Sisters field has really sprung up, and it is blooming and sprawling and creeping and crawling! The winter squash planted in between corn hills has almost completely filled in the area, so that no cultivation is needed anymore... the weeds don't stand a chance.

There are giant amaranth stalks and broom corn (a sorghum) almost 10 feet tall.
Some of this amaranth is an amazing burgundy color. Amaranth is a super grain. Look it up on wikipedia for some interesting facts. I'll report more on this when I get a successful harvest. But right now it's growth habits (very strong, tall, upright stem) seem perfect for growing beans up it... the long-lost 4th sister? (Also sunflower & sorghum have tall trellis structures)
Watch how these bean vines just wrap around anything verticle:

We made small mounds around the corn (4" or so) when it was about knee-high, for some extra support, but it looks like the corn plants have their own strategies for support. They send out these roots from nodes on the stems, when they first emerge they are sticky... somehow they are making their own protective moisture until they get into the soil! Then when they hit the soil, they immediately branch out into lots of little roots, all seeking to stabilize this very tall plant from falling over in the wind! Genius architecture.

I noticed a black-grey dust on some of the corn tassels, and looking closer, realized they were heavily infested with aphids! There were ants crawling all around the aphids too. What these ants are doing is "farming" the aphids. They eat a sticky-sweet substance that the aphid produces, so the ants will treat them as their "livestock" and even move them onto new plants when the food in one area gets scarce.

But, no need to worry or spray anything, I gladly found, the ladybugs are on the scene, and preparing for a great big aphid feast. There were tons of them, tomato-colored little beads moving around on the leaves, making lady-bug love. Their larvae are mostly who devour the aphids. I will keep checking these plants to see when the larvae will appear, these little spiky orange & black bugs.

And... the ears are coming! Hopefully they've been getting pollinated alright... I'll wait a while before I open one up to check. No need to rush the surprise.

1 comment:

x_kaaapiiiishii_x said...
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