Reclaiming Wasted Fence Space with Corn

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Wasted Space Along Fence

Wasted space along the fence. I believe it used to be a rock feature that just was never maintained.

Along the fence in my backyard runs a swath of dirt and rock.  Over the past year of living here I have found myself picking weeds and grass out of these rocks to keep them from looking horrible.  Looking out back the other night I thought I’d like to grow more corn, the problem with that is my garden is small and compact. I already have an eight foot row of corn in the back of my garden, where it won’t steal the light from the rest of my plants.  Instead of picking grass and killing weeds from these rocks, I’ve decided to make a border against the lawn with the rocks along the fence and clear the space between to plant corn.

Removal of Rocks from Fence Area

Removed the rocks from the area with a standard rake.

Armed with my rake, hoe, shovel and scoop shovel I went to work.  I split this in to two sections due to the heat wave we’re having right now.  I can get half of this done in the morning before the temperature shoots over 100 F.    I cleared the rocks in the area simply by applying downward pressure with a rake making sure to knock all of the rocks in the soil free.  Stubborn rocks were negotiated free by delivering a swift blow to their face.  Once the rocks and debris were clear I went over the cleared area looking for debris and began shaping the bed’s area.

Once rocks, debris, and weeds were cleared it was time to put the hoe to work. I used the hoe to dig the bed to a depth of 12″.  Once the initial depth was reached a rake was used to break apart the soil and remove any left over debris.  I mixed two cubic feet of my own top soil/composte/mulch blend into the existing soil and supplemented the area with slow release fertilizer since nothing had been grown for at least a few years in this area.

First Pass of Hoeing

After first pass of hoeing to a depth of 12"

With the bed shaped, ground hoed, and soil prepared it was time to shape the rows.  This first season of this bed I’m going to grow more sweet corn since I have limited space in my garden to grow more.  Corn is also very low work in terms of a vegetable.  It’s hearty, sturdy, and it doesn’t grow much foliage, allowing you to not have to prune or trim it as it grows.  Plant it, wait for it to germinate, thin them out to every 10-12″ and let them go.

On to shaping the rows.  I like to keep my corn in rows so they have a ditch on both sides of the plant which can be used to catch excess moisture from watering.  In my case I take my hoe along the back side of the bed against the fence and push down and pull the soil to the middle to build up the row.  For the side nearest to the lawn I use my shovel to dig down 10″ or so and push the soil forward.  Once you have the row build up take your hoe and tamp the soil to shape it into a long pyramid.

Row Built and Prepared for Planting

Row built as described then seed holes made with a 1/2" diameter bamboo pole.

Once you have the long pyramid formed go back over the top of that pyramid and tamp it down with the tines of your rake.  Once you have the  row nice and sturdy,  not compact, go back over it and make a hole every six inches to plant your corn seed.  Plant the seed in your whole, cover it up, and give that row a good drink of water.  Corn should pop it’ s little head out in five days or so, and in a couple month it’ll be ready for harvest.  Tomorrow I plan on finishing up the other half of this area and planting even more corn, a different cultivar this time!

A commenter on reddit, analogy_4_anything, kindly pointed out that corn planted in a single row often has problems sufficiently pollinating it’s self for proper ear production.  Fear not, you can easily and quickly self pollinate your corn for proper ear production.  When you are out tending to your garden in the morning run your hands across the tassles of your plants then rub them across the silks of the forming ears, try your best to pollinate from one tassle to the silks of another plant. Repeat the first few days of silks showing from ears, this should provide more than sufficient pollination for your plants.

I’ll finish up the other half tomorrow and follow up with an update.  I’ll probably build a run off water collection thing in the middle between the beds but we’ll have to see how that pans out.  Stay tuned!

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