Growing Corn In Calgary?

hmacdona1January 25, 2011

I never thought I'd ever be considering this, but here goes.

My little veggie garden has to be rethought completely this year. I took in my mom's little shih tzu when she passed away last year. The little guy likes to pee all over my plants in the back yard.

He does no harm to my perennial gardens, but I sure don't want to have him let loose on my veggie garden :) LOL A small fence won't keep him out and I do have an underground sprinkler system, so I can only dig so deep. Thankfully all of my tomatoes and peppers are planted in nursery pails, so they're out of the line of fire.

I was thinking I might get creative this year and plant corn in that veggie patch. He's not very tall, so he won't be able to reach the corn cobs :)

At the community garden last year, I saw a gardener plant corn, beans and squash in a traditional native fashion. It's apparently a technique on maximizing space and shading roots at the same time. Pole beans grow up the corn plant, and squash leaves provide great ground cover.

Does anyone have any experience with this technique? Any advice on growing corn in Calgary? Is there a specific variety that would grow well in our short season? I only have a small space in my backyard veggie garden, but thought it might be worth trying a few plants.

Thanks in advance for any advice.


P.S. I've got pole beans planted along a trellis in another area of the yard, so got those covered. I think those will still be safe to grow, other than any that are right near the ground :)

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I'm going to be following the pattern Renee's Seeds suggests. This is my first time planting a three sisters garden. I'm going to be trying several variations on it. Traditionally, I believe they used dent corn (roasting or cornmeal corn.) The dent corn I've seen takes a 110 + days though. So, I'm trying a couple areas of dent corn, pole beans (Tenessee Cutshorts? Cherokee Trail of Tears? Haven't made up my mind on what ones yet) and winter squashes (C. Moschata: Waltham butternuts and a few others.)

As I said, I'm going to try a few variations too. I'm going to try 2 patches with sweet corn (the tallest I can find! Sweet corn takes roughly 77-95 days depending on the variety), half runner beans (because they don't get as tall. Hopefully it won't over power the corn) and winter squashes (C Moschatas - they hold up best to my bug problems)

Hope this helps

Here is a link that might be useful: Renee's Seeds: Three Sisters

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 1:01PM
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I used to let my shih tzu's run and play in the garden. It was the only area I had fenced in. The damage they did to the plants was minimal. Occasionally, my little boy would get tangled up in the cucumber vines or some poor bush beans would get trampled, but I considered it a small price to have them outside with me while I'm garden.

Just don't pick the "wet" veggies when it hasn't rained!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 1:05PM
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Pudge 2b

I've not tried the method, however I just wanted to say that last year I grew Seneca Horizon hybrid corn and wow, I was so impressed. We had a very wet, cold year and yet all the seed came up (I had to thin out half of them) and produced well. The corn was sweet and tender. I'm not in Calgary, but it's a variety I'd highly recommend for its cooler weather tolerance.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 3:08PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I just can't bring myself to eating swiss chard or lettuce that the little bugger might have peed matter how much it's rained..or how good I wash them..LOL

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 3:20PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

I grew a couples of times in a large garden and one's I had a bumper crop. Sorry, I couldn't tell you the name of it.
I find growing corn in a small garden is almost not worth it...too little
return, corn needs good spacing.
We have a dog and fenced the garden with farm fencing, [temporarily] to keep him out of that area. Pounded the galvanized pipes into the ground and tied the fence mesh to it with twine, it took only about a hour.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2011 at 8:28PM
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northspruce(z3a MB CDA)

I tried interplanting corn with various things a long time ago, as instructed by "Carrots Love Tomatoes". Over the years I've come to the conclusion that corn does best with a high nitrogen fertilizer, lots of space, and as much sun and heat as possible. I don't bother interplanting anymore, it wasn't that effective for me.

There are many early super-sweet corns on the market now that do great in our climate. McFaydens and Stokes both sell some really good ones. I'm sure you know not to grow two different types of corn anywhere near each other...

    Bookmark   January 26, 2011 at 11:21AM
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Our nights are usually too cold for corn to grow well, although I have seen the odd plant produce ears. We have a chickenwire enclosure around our vegetable and strawberry patch to keep out little dogs, squirrels and birds.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 12:42AM
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Early corn varieties do well in Edmonton, given a nice sunny spot, so should be OK in Calgary too. Earlivee and Polar Vee always did well for me, even in the worst of summers - they are yellow corn. Simonet is probably the earliest yellow corn, hard to find though. For bicolour corn, "Quickie" has never failed to produce and has been my most preferred variety. Other early varieties often do well but won't mature in a cool year. Simonet only grows 4-5 ft. tall, Polar Vee is similar, Earlivee 5-6 ft., Quickie 6 ft plus. They all are quite tolerant of early-season cool soil. A trick I use to get things started early is to wait until 2-3 days before a warm spell is predicted in late May, then sprout the seeds indoor in a jar, mung-bean style. In 2-3 days they will begin to sprout and need to planted outside right away. In the end, this probably gives a 7-10 day head start compared to direct seeding. Be aware though that you are really doing this for the enjoyment, appearance and fresh corn taste. The cobs on early corn are much smaller than commercial corn and by the time your garden corn is ready, Taber corn will be ready and will easily undercut your effort and expense. That said, I've grown corn in my garden for the past 20 years...this is "Quickie" bicolour corn...

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 2:08AM
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Point and question.

First the question. Where do you find seed for Polar Vee? I'd like to try it as a baby corn in the Washington DC area. At our latitude the days are probably too short for it to make decent ears and we get plenty of summer heat for
full season corn anyway. But I'm always eager to get that very first corn of the season which here, with Early Sunglow is mid June.

Now the point. Contrary to the Conventional Wisdom, corn transplants VERY well up to about 1 foot high. If you plant it in a 9 pack with 3/4" cells and transplant at the 4 leaf stage, you will save two weeks of growing time and space. It will be about 4" high at that point. If you grow it in 3" pots or cells you can save another ten days and it's then about a foot tall. Beyond that though you will stunt it. However with this method full season corn only ties up precious space for about 50-60 days and I get two crops per season on most of my space, three per season where I grow the very first corn.
I plant about 10-15 plants per week to have continuous corn until October.
This far south I only grow main season varieties after the very first planting.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 12:03PM
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Interesting! We enjoy 90 frost free days here in the great northlands of the prairies!

Where we are in Manitoba, it's the 10 th of June for the last spring frost (sometimes), and anywhere near the end of August there can be frosty nights, usually patchy frost or close enough to get out blankets and sheets to try and protect the most tender plants.

We have family in Calgary and they are in a location where cold air from the mountains follows the rivers and they just could not grow corn or tomatoes. So it's hard to say if this will be a factor.

Transplanting corn? Yes, we do it here. Our spring soil just isn't warm enough to get the corn seeds up and out of the ground, unless one waits until July! So, we put the corn seeds, one apiece in those little plastic 6 count packs they sell bedding plants in. We have room in our garden for 2 trays (72 corn seedlings per tray). We keep them toasty so they sprout. These trays go out into the full sun on our patio as soon as any sign of a seed leaf appears, but come back indoors at night. We time this whole operation so they can be transplanted out the first week of June if the weather cooperates. We have had to cover a few times! The root can get a little mangled during transplanting, if it has pushes its way out the bottom hole of it's little plactic cubicle. We try and be careful and they don't seem to hold a grudge.

All said, corn is definitely a gamble. Some years it's a total impossibility, and other years your strike gold!

BTW we plant Extra Early Northern Super Sweet.

Will definitely pass on the info about letting the corn transplants grow to a larger size, as we have a keen junior-gardener in our midst whose passion is to claim the earliest corn in the district!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2013 at 4:37PM
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Manitoba_mum, thanks for posting ... I start the corn almost exactly as you do, including also growing the excellent tasting Extra Early Northern Super Sweet ... well, the bi colored version, indeed fantastic fresh eating and very good for freezing! I sow in early May and place in a toasty greenhouse and bring the flat in at night. Seedlings are kept fertilized and the sturdy 4" or 5" plants are hardened off and transplanted into rich garden soil at the end of May when the weather is often ideal here. Only in the coolest wettest summers has the crop ever struggled to mature before frost and is otherwise pretty much always well ahead of the game.

This post was edited by twrosz on Fri, Dec 6, 13 at 1:55

    Bookmark   December 5, 2013 at 10:35PM
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Ready to go into the freezer ...

    Bookmark   December 5, 2013 at 10:44PM
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With -40 C windchills we're dealing with colder temperatures than our corn is enjoying in the freezer!

When it's this cold it's hard to believe we ever had summer-- let alone ever having grown corn!

Thanks for posting such beautiful photos, it sure helps to lift the spirits!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2013 at 5:35PM
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I'd suggest that you try transplants...and just cross your fingers. I was never able to get a good crop in Calgary (Ramsay), and I think that you're just going to have to hope that you have a warm microclimate. Corn seems to adapt to high latitudes much more easily than high elevations; I get a very nice crop in Peace River every year, and it's grown as a field crop in Ft. Vermilion, which is well over 250 km to the north of me.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2013 at 12:25AM
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