Idle curiosity -- what is the furthest north you can grow corn?

denninmi(8a)June 12, 2012

How far north can people successfully grow corn and other warm weather vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons without a greenhouse? Calgary or Edmonton Alberta? Alaska? Yellowknife?

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Ginny McLean_Petite_Garden

I grow all of them here in Edmonton. Eggplant and melons require a little more heat or protection but many varieties have been developed for shorter seasons. Interesting to know how far north of here gardeners have success with warm weather vegies. :)


    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 5:42PM
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My neighbor grows corn north of Grande Prairie but she starts them in her livingroom in March. Same with tomatoes I am so glad she shares.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 7:23PM
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I live in Saskatoon.

I'd classify the warm season crops into 3 categories:

1. Easy: Guaranteed success except in the crappiest of summers: Corn, tomatoes, summer squash, winter squash
2. Moderate: greatly benefit from plastic mulch, row covers and other protection, but will also yield without such benefits: eggplant, peppers, melons. Often fail in years with unusually cool summers.
3. Difficult: plastic mulch and row covers ARE necessary for any sort of production, even in normal summers: *drumroll* okra. Ironically, my favourite vegetable.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 8:57PM
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Well, don't feel bad about the Okra. I'm in 6A in SE Michigan, and I generally never have had much luck with it either, and no one I know of in the area really does. It will survive and grow a few feet tall, and yield of small handful of pods, but we just don't have the long, hot days and hot nights this plant really needs. I've pretty much decided to not even try again, I planted a few this year only because I had an old packet of seeds and I'm trying to use up all of my old seeds.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 9:42PM
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I've grown sweet corn in Edmonton for 20 years and only one year of those 20 did it fail (extremely early killing frost in late August). But growing one of the very early varieties is key to success at 53.5 degrees north latitude.

I've produced ripe muskmelons here too, but watermelons so far elude me (only tried twice -- one year they ended up golf-ball size, once year they ended up full ice-box size but never ripened.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 2:19AM
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I used to watch the 'Canadian Gardener' series on CBC, which was hosted by the man from the U. of B.C. Botanic Garden (can't remember his name, David something perhaps).

They had regional guest correspondents from around Canada who were amateur gardeners, and who would report on what was happening in their gardens and in their regions. One was an elderly man from Yellowknife, who had quite an amazing little garden during the short summer season. The nearly 24 hour days, brought things into rapid growth. One thing that amazed me was how compressed everything was -- plants that for me would bloom a month apart or more were all blooming at once for him.

Specifically, though, this man had a small glasshouse which he used to start transplants, and to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers in -- they benefited from the extra warmth even in the summer, and of course that prolonged the harvest since fall and frost came by early September there.

Quite fascinating to me.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 3:30PM
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Ginny McLean_Petite_Garden

You might want to check out this guys blog site. :)


    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 4:02PM
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Sweet corn grows very well in and around the town of Peace River (AB) townsite, and ripens by mid-August with our long summer days. I personally was surprised to find extensive cornfields last year around LaCrete, AB, which is about 150 km NE of me, and I know that Corn does very well in Ft. Vermilion, as well.

I'd think that the northern limits of good sweet corn growing in Canada would be Ft. Simpson or Ft. Liard, NWT. When I worked in the NWT, I was advised that the farthest north uncovered gardens were in Tsiigehtchic, which is about 100 km from the Arctic Ocean, but never got to see them myself...and it's doubtful, in any case, that you could get a good corn crop there.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 5:32PM
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Gosh, denninmi... I remember that show. David Terrant was the host. Bob Switzer co-hosted for a few years; he was a hoot, lol, though I think he was under foot most of the time (poor Terrant)!

We have no problem growing short-season corn varieties. I think my latitude here is roughly 52 degrees (central Sask). Some of these other posters are definitely further north.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 6:49PM
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Where I am in south Iceland, it is nearly impossible to grow all of these even with a protection. Most often you need a greenhouse. Only summer squash and siberian tomatoes can be grown with some effort.

Summer has common frosts until early June, and occasional frosts until early July, and frosts start again by mid August. By early September expect the soil to start freezing. Summer is cold and windy, and sometimes very rainy and cloudy.

Summer squash is the easiest. But this summer has been a cold summer and it looks I am not going to get an harvest even with plastic mulch and a fleece cover. In good summers you can grow it without plastic mulch, but it needs a slightly sheltered spot.

Normal tomatoes: impossible.

Siberian tomatoes: they can crop only if in a sheltered spot, like against a wall. But still the crop is very poor.

Corn: I tried painted mountain corn under a plastic frame, it seems still impossible to grow corn in Iceland (unless inside a heated greenhouse)

Peppers/eggplant: impossible (so far I haven't been able to make them flower), however they remain alive during the chilly summer

Melons, Pumpkin: they not only do not grow, but can die if there is a frost in July. Also weather can be very wet and chilly, which is bad for them. I tried siberian watermelon and it died too.

Anyone has varieties that crop good in cold weather?

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 4:45AM
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If I recall correctly, the old guy's name was Stan...great show. Last I heard, David Tarrant had retired and was living in Mexico.

I haven't tried to grow too much that has pushed my zone, i.e. eggplants, okra, sweet potatoes...I live with picky eaters and I know I couldn't get them to eat any of it. I love the look of okra plants and their flowers though.

Oops, spelled David's last name can you tell I'm a Dr Who fan? :)

This post was edited by on Mon, Jul 29, 13 at 13:26

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 9:07AM
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Donna in Sask,

Hehe, that's funny. I grew up in the tropics (now living in central SK) and I still can't appreciate the taste of beets and carrots. They just taste so flat and unidimensional to me. However, I have grown to like certain things. I now like sauerkraut, and baby turnips are great in salads. I miss my okra. I can get it to grow here but the yield is so low I don't bother with it anymore.

Okra is delicious when soaked in buttermilk for half an hour, dredged in seasoned cornmeal, and pan-fried. No sliminess this way and it's more addictive than potato chips. Use only fresh okra, never frozen.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 8:33PM
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shillanorth Z4 AB

The fellow in Yellowknife was Stan Hutyra - a well known gardener in the Knife for years. I grew corn in Fort Smith, NWT - it was fabulous to walk between the rows of corn - they were taller than me!!!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2013 at 10:20PM
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Segurelha -- I looked up the website for painted mountain corn... I think that's a bit of a scam as far as northerly production goes. The developer of that variety is 850 km south of me, and that's certainly not a variety anyone around here grows. For most reliable sweet corn in these parts I'd grow something like Polar Vee or heirloom Orchard Baby. But from your descriptions I still doubt they'd work for you, though they ripen mid-August here.

Earliest tomato I can think of is sub-Arctic maxi. Yields are low, but it is early. I am growing Latah this year and it seems very early too... have picked a bunch alreay. It also has low yields, but the taste is great.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 4:35AM
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Pudge 2b

Yukon Chief corn is bred for cold weather growing, that may be a possibility. In the past I have started corn indoors in 6-cells to transplant out. This works well, my earliest crop was ready the first weekend of August.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 10:13AM
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