Quest for Corn

| 3/15/2011 10:36:27 AM

It has become a priority of mine to grow and harvest a small stand of field corn this year. There are several issues that have made this important to me. Corn prices have gone through the roof. I raise two feeder pigs each summer. They eat a lot of grain that is predominately made with corn. We also have cattle, goats and chickens that require smaller amounts of grain containing corn. If grown economically, considering cost of seed-stock, fertilize and gas for using the tractor to cultivate, I am hoping that this can be money-saving. Using, building and maintaining a non-GMO heritage variety seed-stock is not only good practice, but will also save money for future crops. Growing good quality, nutritionally superior corn that I can grind for our own food is exciting as well. I look forward to giving hominy a try, and grinding it for cornbread and other recipes using cornmeal.

Initially I was worried about harvest. I have found out, though, that the great thing about growing corn for pigs is that they will eat and utilize the whole stalk of corn. So, harvesting for pig consumption will only consist of chopping corn stalks off at the ground and feeding directly to the pigs. No stripping ears, shucking or shelling. The only portion of the crop I will have to harvest in that manner will be that which I keep for seed, feed chickens and save for home use. Since the corn is a grain harvest and dries on the stalk in the field, there is a wide window for harvest.


The south end of our garden has been unused for several years. I have used the turn plow to turn the sod over and expose the dirt. I will now be discing it to break down the sod and get it prepared for seed. I would like to get a jump on it and get seeds of one variety in the ground mid-April and then another a month later. I am hoping if I stagger planting time then they will pollinate at different times and I can keep the varieties separated successfully.

Wish me luck on this project, I hope to be moderately successful and learn a lot!I am also excited about reclaiming this unused area of our garden.If you have had a similar project, I would appreciate any advice or suggestions.Also, a discussion about how to acquire economically priced heritage variety seed would be great! Happy gardening to you all this spring! 

4/19/2011 11:45:51 AM

I seldom use those tiny packs of seed. Instead, I go down to a local feed and seed store. In Georgia you can find both open pollinated and hybrids on sale by the pound. It's even possible to buy in bulk from some of the specialty seed companies. Locally, once you get into the 50 pound bag range, you're limited to hybrids. We used to grow corn for hogs until it was cheaper to buy it. However, that was decades ago, long before spiraling diesel and fertilizer costs. We stored the dry, unshucked, ears in a log structure called a corn crib. This was designed to keep the ears dry and to allow air circulation. We never harvested the stalks. However, we did turn livestock in on the fields to let them “glean” the corn before we cut under the crop residue with a disk harrow. Do not underestimate the damage to stored corn from insects and critters. Weevils are about as bad as squirrels and mice. Last year I lost half of my little bit of open pollinated dent due to weevils. We always lost some corn in the crib though not that much.

Sherry Leverich Tucker
3/21/2011 6:37:44 PM

Yes, I will be using tractor cultivation. Being a busy mom with a large market garden, there could be no other way! I have had trouble locating "economically" priced heritage seed in larger than pkt or 1/4 lb sizes. At this time I know of no one personally I can acquire seed from, either. A large portion of this years crop will have to go to building my own seedstock.

Chris Sharpsteen
3/19/2011 11:47:07 PM

The vertical structure of organisms within the soil is important in a garden but when growing on a larger scale equipment is necessary for efficient crop production. It is hard to maintain a no-till production garden using heavy implements as cultivating between rows results in soil compaction . Sherry you will need several long rows of corn for your pigs and other animals and that means a tractor. I hope you have been able to find seed in large enough quanities, so many of the better seed companies only offer packets. A packet of corn doesn't go very far down a 150 foot row. Chris

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