Analyzing our 2021 garden: corn and sunflowers

Since we ordered SO many things for this year, and expanded how much space we were gardening in, I decided to go over groups of things in separate posts, in no particular order and spread over the next few days.

This year, we planted corn and sunflowers for multiple purposes, making some of them both a success and a failure at the same time!

We planted two varieties of sunflowers and five varieties of corn this year.

From Baker Creek, we ordered:

Hope Black Dye sunflower
Mongolian Giant sunflower
Dorinny Sweet Corn
Montana Morado corn

From Veseys, we got one of their Peaches ‘n Cream collections that included:

Early Eh

With the sunflowers, I ordered two packs of each, for an experiment. One pack of each was started indoors, while the other packs were direct sown outside later on.

The Hopi Black Dye started indoors were strange, in that they didn’t germinate until after the other packet was direct sown outdoors! The Mongolian Giants that were started indoors did have a visible size advantage over the ones that were direct sown – right up until the deer started getting at them.

The Peaches ‘n Cream corn and sunflower blocks were planted the furthest away from the house, in poor soil. Part of the reason was to start preparing the soil for when we plant trees and bushes in the area. These were all things that were expected to grow tall, so they would also act as a privacy screen.

The sunflowers handled the drought fairly well with watering, and appreciated the super long, mild fall we had. We did harvest seed heads, though none were anywhere near full size. Currently, the smaller of the seed heads are being set out at the feeding station for the birds, while the larger ones will, hopefully, provide seeds that can be planted. We have not tried eating any of them yet, but the heads should be well dried by now.

As for the Peaches ‘n Cream corn blocks, they were the tiniest things ever, yet we still got corn we could eat!

I truly did not expect this. Especially with corn being a plant that needs a lot of nitrogen, and the soil in that area being so nitrogen depleted.

The Dorinny corn was planted not far away, also on virgin ground. I chose these specifically because they were a Canadian hybrid that were to be planted before last frost. When we got hit by one unusually cold night in May, I thought the ones that had germinated had survived, but alas, after a few days, they died off. Other seeds germinated, though, so we did get at least a few cobs out of it. I really enjoyed them, too.

The Montana Morado corn was something else entirely. There was some confusion as I thought I was ordering Peruvian maize morado that had been successfully grown in the US, only they turned out to be a US based hybrid. They were started indoors and transplanted after our last frost date, as far from the other varieties as I could, and they did well at first, even when the heat set in – until the deer got to them!

We did get a few cobs to try, but ultimately, it failed due to critter damage.

Final Analysis

Hopi Black Dye sunflowers: These were beautiful, and my reasons for getting these are the same reasons I am seriously considering ordering them again, or just trying to plant them from the seeds we have. It would be awesome to have enough of them to use for dying, as well as for eating and for bird seed.

Mongolian Giant sunflowers: I really want to grow a giant variety of sunflowers, and these are supposed to be quite massive. I want to try them again, both for our own eating, and for bird seed.

But will we grow sunflowers again next year? These did not really succeed very well, but at least we got something out of them in spite of the drought and heat waves. I do want to grow both varieties again, but we will need to think about that a bit more, and find a place to plant them that is suited for their growth, rather than for things like wind breaks or privacy screens.

Peaches ‘n Cream corn: These were enjoyed, but we will not get a collection like this again. I have already got seeds for a bi-colour variety called Latte, chosen partly because they were on sale. These came in a packet of 200 seeds, so there will be plenty of this one variety.

Dorinny Corn: I really liked this variety, and especially like that it is a cold hardy variety that can be planted so early. There were not a lot in the packet, so if they are still available, I may pick up two packets.

Montana Morado: These are now being sold as Mountain Morado. As awesome as they were (so far as they were able to grow!), I will not order these again for next year. I am after the Peruvian maize morado, aka Kulli corn. It is supposed to be good for fresh eating, as a flour corn, and to make the drink, chicha morado, and I am determined to succeed with this! I have found a heritage seed site in the US that carries Kulli corn seeds, and plan to pick up a couple of packets, as there are only 25 seeds per packet. My hope is that, over time, I will have a deep, dark maize morado that is acclimated to our climate zone. That may take a few years, but for some reason, I really want to do this!

For next year’s garden, I do want to plant a new “fun” corn. I want to grow popcorn. It turns out that, when you’re buying them from seed, there are all sorts of colours and flavours to choose from, and there are even varieties that taste buttery, all on their own. Which means that, if I am able to get seeds I want, we will have a total of four varieties of corn, next year. All of these would be planted/transplanted at different times and mature at different rates, so cross pollination will not be an issue.

The biggest challenge we will have for all of this will be critter protection. Without that, even if we had perfect growing conditions next year, it won’t do much good if the deer or the raccoons decimate them.

Of course, one way for that to be less of a problem is to plant so many of them, we can afford to lose a bunch, but we are a long way from having the growing space for it! Over time, though, we will probably be doing that, if I’m wanting to plant enough corn for flour or animal feed.

The Re-Farmer

2 thoughts on “Analyzing our 2021 garden: corn and sunflowers

    • A bit of all! Lol

      Among our plans is to plant forage trees and plants, well away from the house. As we increase barriers around the gardens, they will go where food is easy. A small field of corn or sunflowers, however, will be very vulnerable unless we start building walls and fortifications. Lol


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