12 Tips for Planting March 11 2013
12 Tips for Planting Painted Mountain Corn in the Northern Rockies
Please let me reiterate that Painted Mountain Corn originated in the inter-mountain American West and was developed to thrive in the northern Rockies where no other corn would grow. It has a rich and robust gene pool that is distinctly different from the mono-cropped lowland and coastal corn varieties My comments apply to our experience here in the mountains of Montana. Your experience may be different if you live in other areas. Other varieties of corn may be more suitable for other locations. YMMV.
1. PLANT FAR AWAY FROM ANY GENETICALLY MODIFIED CORN.
Almost all corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. Avoid cross-pollination contamination by choosing a location far from any other corn. In some of our valleys at lower elevations, farmers still under the spell of Big Ag are starting to plant Dupont PIONEER genetically modified franken-corn to feed their dairy herds.
I know of one case of a farmer ostensibly caught in the jaws of economic necessity who understands GM/Herbicidal/Pesticidal dangers. He feeds his family organic vegetables while continuing to grow PIONEER corn for his cows. After all, his commercial production is for public consumption. Caveat emptor!
Talk about cognitive dissonance-all the better reason to grow your own and not die young from GM vectors. If you sterilize your progeny with GMO’s, who will build the new civilization?
2. PUT UP AN EIGHT FOOT DEER FENCE.
The ravenous white tail and mule deer that survive winter-kill are like four-footed locusts devouring any green shoot that emerges in the spring. Put up that deer net. If you have elk and bison that move through your area, other measures will be needed but I will not address that here.
Train all family members, visitors and neighbors to keep your gate closed and securely fastened at all times. Critters and livestock can sneak in when you least expect it and wipe you out. Make your gate(s) large enough to accommodate vehicles and equipment as needed through harvest time. Think ahead.
3. IF YOU HAVE GOPHER HOLES, PREPARE FOR WAR.
Gophers, or Richardson’s Ground Squirrels, are fecundly destructive and can quickly wipe you out when they emerge from their underground dens in the warm days of spring. Get a supply of traps now and learn how to use them. Remember to stake the traps to prevent other critters from departing with trap and carcass. Remember that these harmful rodents harbor fleas that may carry bubonic plague. A few people die from Yersinia pestis every year, particularly in the southern Rockies of New Mexico.
Get out your scope-mounted 10/22 and prepare for those sunny days in May when these creatures emerge from their holes. I find that my full-choke 12 gauge with light loads of #8 shot is particularly effective. It only takes a few pellets to take out these destructive little cannibals. (They do eat their own.)
Gives thanks if you do not have gophers.
Although Painted Mountain Corn was developed as a dry-land grain, stack the odds in your favor by irrigating. See my cautionary tale of our experience in 2012. Reliable gravity-fed water from snowmelt, year-round springs or artesian wells is the gold standard.
I lived off-grid for almost three decades and used solar and wind power to pump water from a low-yield well into a cistern that fed our domestic and irrigation systems by gravity. This worked OK but its better to minimize reliance on technology if you have a choice.
Drip tape decreases water loss. Overhead impact sprinklers can also work. Use timers to automate the systems and water at night. Irrigation systems must be designed properly from the outset. There is a substantial learning curve on the operational and maintenance details for successful operation. Watering by hand gets old real quick and is feasible only on the smallest plots.
As a rule-of-thumb, look around at the native vegetation that grows in your area from natural precipitation. Be forewarned if you see sagebrush and cactus–this is what your fields and gardens will revert to if power grid dependent irrigation goes down.
5. ADD MINERALS AS SOIL AMENDMENTS.
Big Ag pushes NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) for maximum weight and quantity production. They get paid for weight, quantity and cosmetics, not for nutrition.
Plants can make vitamins, amino acids and some fatty acids from sunlight and soil. Plants cannot manufacture minerals. The 60 essential minerals necessary for human life must be present in the soil in a bioavailable form that plants can assimilate. If the soil is deficient in minerals and trace elements, plants grown in that soil will be deficient in those minerals and elements as well.
People and animals fed such crops, without dietary supplementation of the 60 essential minerals, 16 essential vitamins and 3 essential fatty acids, will be afflicted by myriad chronic and acute degenerative diseases and afflictions that lead to an early death.
Since corn in general is a heavy feeder, I practice crop rotations with nitrogen-fixing legumes and fallow cycles. I have learned to apply only well-rotted and composted manure and cellulosic materials well dug in. Beware of weed seeds that can come in with mulch.
I concentrate on the application of mineral-rich amendments such as azomite, glacial rock dust, marine kelp and fish emulsion.
The secret ingredient that boosts the absorption of inorganic minerals is BioZome which contains a group of organisms called Archaea that accelerate plant mineral uptake resulting in hardier, mineral-rich plants that taste better.
I highly recommend BioZome. After using it for three years, I think that it is a significant factor in our seed development work.
6. PLOW THE EARLY WEED FLUSH UNDER RIGHT BEFORE PLANTING.
This practice will give you a head-start on the weeds.
7. PLANT EARLY. PLANT DEEP.
Plant uniformly 3 inches deep when the soil temperature reaches 50 to 55 degrees F for synchronized pollination, growing time and harvest. Plant the seed in holes of the same depth, one seed per hole. This corn has a high germination rate at soil temperatures much lower than other corn, even those special hybrid sweet corns that never make it here.
8. SOAK THE SEED.
Soak the seed overnight in non-chlorinated, non-municipal water before planting. This practice will jump-start the growing cycle by 2 weeks.
9. KEEP THE ROWS STRAIGHT.
Know where your seed is planted so you can avoid trampling it and keep equipment off of it.
10. PLANT IN A ROOMY BLOCK.
Give them room. Don’t crowd but plant in blocks for best pollination. Plant at least 1 foot apart in rows 3 feet apart. Allow room to get in there and weed, cultivate and re-position irrigation systems as required. In the generally poor soils of the Rocky Mountains, each plant benefits from a little bit of extra room to acquire the necessary nutrients through its root system.
11. CHOP OUT THE WEEDS EARLY ON.
Get in there with your long-handled weeding hoe and relentlessly get those weeds out as they pop up when they are small and easy. A weed is anything you did not purposely plant with perhaps an exception here and there for a squash or bean volunteer which are actually companions to corn as taught by our Native American forebearers.
Oh by the way, we had quite a number of Painted Mountain volunteers last year in a pea crop we planted over the previous year’s corn field. I heard that corn volunteers are almost unheard of but this is not your usual corn.
12. PRAY AND BE VIGILANT.
Most importantly, pray for your crop and be watchful for any sign of any untoward condition or circumstance that might affect the bountiful harvest that is sure to follow.
P.S. This is not an exhaustive list-only a few salient points for now.
More to come…