Monthly Archives: August 2014

Supersweet Corn 7002R

Last year I experimented with one of the newer varieties of corn that are said to be sweeter than the traditional sweet corn. “Bodacious” grew well and tasted good but I wasn’t that impressed with it.

Supersweet Corn 7002R

Supersweet Corn 7002R

This year I tried the supersweet variety 7002R from Harris Seeds. I have to say that this corn is a keeper. The corn grew well and yielded enough ears to do some freezing. But there are two things in particular that have sold me on this variety.

The first is how easy it is to clean the ears of corn. I’ve always found that while the husks are easy to remove, the silks are a pain in the *#&! It seems like not matter how hard you try, there are always silks sticking to the ear.

Not so with 7002R. As soon as you remove the husk, the silk just falls away. I’ve never seen corn that was so easy to clean.

The other thing that I like about this corn is that because of its high sugar content, the ears store very well. Older varieties need to be eaten within a day or they begin to taste like field corn.

I was shocked to find that 7002R can sit in the refrigerator for a week and when you cook it, it tastes like it just came from the garden. I can understand why these supersweet corn varieties are marketed to growers; their shelf life is amazing.

7002R - small tassels growing from the tip of the ears.

7002R – small tassels growing from the tip of the ears.

The one interesting thing that I found with this corn is that most of the ears had a tiny tassel starting to grow at the tip. This must be some genetic fluke that causes the ears to become hermaphroditic. It certainly doesn’t affect the corn but it’s a strange trait of 7002R.

While corn isn’t my favorite vegetable, I think 7002R has found a place in future gardens. It grows well, it tastes good and it stores unlike any corn I’ve ever seen.

 

Movies for the Bees

I recently watched three different movies on Netflix and Hulu about bees. I’d heard about the colony collapse disorder but I didn’t know much about it. I also didn’t know a lot about how honey bees are raised and handled. While there’s still a lot more to learn, this movies gave me a good introduction to bees and what’s going on with the bees.

MTH_PLAKAT_RZ.inddThe first movie I saw was More Than Honey, a 2012 Dutch movie about bees. While I ran into a little trouble with some of the subtitles, this film was well made, moving all around the globe to show the state of bees in various countries. The most disturbing part was seeing workers in China hand pollinating trees because all of the bees in the area are dead. Only in China would there be enough labor forces to be able to do this.

queen-of-the-sun-what-are-the-bees-telling-us-movie-poster-2010-1020691200The next was Queen of the Sun, a 2010 release. When the movie started with a woman dancing with a swarm of bees on her torso, I almost stopped watching it. It looked like it might be a bit too “fringy” and not scientific enough for my taste. But when one of the people interviewed was Michael Pollan, I relaxed a little. I still have some question about some of the scientific claims of this movie but I’m glad I saw it.

Vanishing-of-the-beesThe final movie was Vanishing of the Bees, a 2009 movie. A bee keeper from this part of PA who first reported colony collapse was prominently featured and gave this movie a “hometown connection” for me. The cooperation of bee keepers around the globe was also shown which showed that this problem is being addressed from a variety of perspectives. It was a well made movie.

What I realized after watching all of these movies is that honey bees are facing a lot of stress. They’re shipped all around the country on the back of tractor trailers to pollinate crops in different areas of the country. They face an onslaught of diseases and mites. The queen bees are artificially inseminated and replaced in hives long before they need to be. Hives are “fed” high fructose corn syrup. And then there’s the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that seem to be affecting bee behavior and contributing to their death (I’m researching this for another post).

While all of the movies show the problems that bees are facing, there’s also some hope in each of them. The specific cause (if there is just one) of colony collapse is still being investigated but a lot has been learned about bee health because of this problem. Also some are finding ways to raise bees that addresses many of these issues and it appears to be working.

If you’re at all interested in bees and their current state of health or disease, these movies are a great place to start to learn about these amazing insects.

Twisted Corn

This year I decided to try growing one of the newer “supersweet” varieties of sweet corn. The seeds of 7002R (I guess they haven’t gotten around to properly naming this variety yet!) came from Harris Seeds. The supersweet seeds tend to be small and very shriveled making them a little weaker when they’re germinating. Because of this it’s recommended that you not plant them too deeply and wait until the soil has warmed to at least 60-65° F.

7002R Corn

7002R Corn

I waited until Memorial Day to plant the 7002R seeds. They germinated quickly and have been growing well. I was a little nervous when I noticed that some of the plants were tasseling before the silks had emerged but when the silks were present and ready to be pollinated there was plenty of pollen being released by the tassels.

There’s only been one small problem with the corn. It’s planted in the northwest corner of the garden and has gotten the full blast of some of the summer storms that we’ve had. A number of the stalks have been snapped off in the middle while others are bent over and partially uprooted.

IMG_8774There are a few reasons for this. I think I planted the corn a little close together so the plants are a bit crowded. This doesn’t seem to be affecting the ears but it may have made the plants less stable in the soil. But the biggest reason for this damage is also one of the reasons that the corn’s doing so well – we’ve had a lot of rain this year. Just as a tree in wet ground is more likely to topple in a wind storm, the same is true for corn. Moist soil makes plants less stable when they’re blasted by the wind.

The good news is that while the corn looks a little twisted, it’s still growing well. The ears are starting to fill and in the next couple of weeks I should be harvesting some 7002R supersweet corn. I’ll then be able to tell if this new kind of corn is really better than the old sweet corn varieties.

African Violets and Soil Fungus

I seem to have an issue with african violets and various kinds of fungi. In the past I’ve written about pythium and how it decimated my plants.

Now I seem to have some new fungus, or better said, fungi. In the spring I got some leaves of plants from Lyndon Lyon Greenhouses in New York. The leaves came quickly and were in very good shape when they arrived. I took the time to “sterilize” the potting mix that I was using and assumed that all would be well.

A few weeks after potting up the leaves I noticed that there was a brown fungus growing on the top of the soil. When the pots dried out and I watered them, a puff of brown powder would emerge from the top of the soil when the water touched it – that was the fungi spreading its spore into the environment!

I kept the pots of leaves separated from other plants but I noticed that a schefflera that I’d potted with the same potting mix had identical brown fungus growing on the surface of the pot. It’s obvious that there was some kind of fungus spores in the bag of potting mix that I used and my attempt at sterilizing the soil didn’t accomplish its purpose.

Fungi on Potting Mix

Fungi on Potting Mix

I was tempted to throw out the african violet leaves but I decided to wait and see what would happen. As it turns out, this brown fungus didn’t seem to affect the plants. Small plantlets started to grow but at the same time that the plantlets were growing, a white fungus started to grow on the surface of one of the pots. I’m not a mycologist so I don’t know what kinds of fungi these are but I know I don’t want them spreading to the rest of my plants.

After some searching I found a copper fungicide that’s said to safe for african violets. Its active ingredient is copper octanoate, a kind of copper soap. The way copper works as a fungicide is to denature proteins and thus disrupt the growth of fungi. It can have a pytotoxic effect on plants as well if the concentration of copper is too high. The solution I’m using is only 0.08% copper octanoate so I’m not too concerned that it’ll harm the violets. If they do seem affected, I’ll flush the plants and soil with water and hope for the best.

I sprayed the surface of the soil and will repeat this in about a week. I’ll continue to keep an eye on the soil and when it comes time to pot the plantlets, I’ll remove most of the soil from their roots and dip the entire plant in fungicide. This should stop the fungi and keep it from becoming a permanent part of my indoor garden.

I’ve heard of people getting bad bags of potting soil and ending up with a fungus gnat infestation. I’m glad I didn’t get any gnats in that bag of soil; I just got the fungus! Here’s hoping the copper octanoate is the answer to my problem.