Everyone has their own “quintessential” summer food. If yours is a fruit or vegetable, there’s a pretty good chance that Terra Firma grows it: Tomatoes, Peaches, Watermelon, and of course, Sweet Corn.
Sweet corn is not easy to grow organically. There are several reasons, but one might come as a bit of a surprise: Corn seed does not like to be cold and wet. Despite the fact that it is widely grown in much of the U.S. and the world, it is native to what is currently Mexico and the desert southwest. For most of its cultivated history, it was grown primarily in warm, arid regions using irrigation.
To grow it in more temperate areas, it has to be planted during the spring when the soil is cold and rain is frequent. This is just as true in Northern California as it is in Ohio or Iowa. Cold soil slows down the germination of the seed, giving root maggots and other pests more of a chance to eat the seeds under ground. Heavy rains make matters worse, causing the seeds to rot.
Conventional farmers avoid these problems by buying seed that is coated with fungicides and insecticides that organic farmers are not allowed to use. Organic farmers must use untreated seed, or seed that is coated with natural compounds that purport to protect the seed.
At Terra Firma, we simply don’t plant corn if there is rain forecast in less than 7 days, which is about how long it takes the seed to sprout. Once the seedling emerges, the rain doesn’t hurt it.
This year, the seven-days-of-dry planting rule meant we missed several of our usual planting dates. But it worked out okay in the end, because the corn we planted in early March grew so slowly due to the cold weather that it matured almost three weeks later than it should have. The corn I seeded at the end of March is ripening right on its heels.
We like to try to have our first Sweet Corn for you by the “unofficial start of summer”, i.e. Memorial Day, but at least we made it in time for the official start date. Enjoy.
Happy Summer Solstice,