Corn in a raised bed

We always try to incorporate one new thing in our school garden each season. This spring the something new was planting corn to go with our Tops and Bottoms theme (inspired by the book by Janet Stevens of the same name). The beds containing lettuce, kale (tops) and radishes (bottoms) took off quickly as I knew they would, but our corn germinated very slowly (we had a couple of late cold snaps) and even after the sprouts appeared, it did not take off at quite the growth rate I thought it would.

The kids kept asking me where was the corn and I started pondering whether I was going to need to run to the store to buy some ears of corn for the classes who planted in those beds (and if I could attach them to the plants without anyone noticing – just kidding…. okay, maybe it crossed my mind in passing).

And then one Monday we returned from a long weekend and there were tassels on top of our corn plants! Yes! I am pretty sure I was more excited than the kids. In fact, I think adding something new each season is more important for motivating the volunteers and teachers than it is for grabbing the students' interest. And then the questions started coming in and I realized my knowledge of how the corn plant works was lacking. Fortunately our friends at the National Gardening Association have an excellent resource all About Corn in their Learning Library. The tassels at the top are the male flowers that produce pollen that rains down on the female flowers which appear as threadlike silks further down the stalk in the joints of the leaves. The female silks will eventually become the ears of corn with each silk corresponds to a single kernel. Pretty cool right?

Whew! It worked. With the last day of school approaching,  I am not sure if our corn will reach full maturity, but the ears are at least getting big enough so that we can open up a few and show the students that they did in fact grow corn this spring.   Now if our cherry tomatoes would just ripen up, we will be golden. We currently have hundreds and hundreds (and hundreds) of very green cherry tomatoes and only 5 full days of school left—yikes! Just a reminder for me that it is always a challenge to match the school and garden calendars.

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