Growing Indian corn
Indian corn is a festive, fall decorating item. You'll find it at farmers' markets and grocery stores, but it's easy to grow and there are many varieties of seed.
Radio interview source: Tim Coolong, Assistant Professor of Vegetable Production, University of Kentucky
Many people choose to decorate their households with Indian corn because of the lovely color palette they have.
There are many types of Indian corn. Some are multi-colored and others are one solid color. Tim Coolong is an assistant professor of vegetable production at the University of Kentucky. He says the kernel colors are based on genetics.
"Every kernel on that cob basically has a single grain of pollen to contribute to that kernel, so whatever color was the dominant gene in that particular pollen grain leads to the color of that particular kernel," he says. "And so some varieties just happen to have a wide array of genetic diversity and color. That's how you get some of the really multi-colored varieties."
Plant in a block or multiple rows so the corn is easily pollinated by the wind. Single rows result in poor pollination, and the ears will not fill with kernels. Provide a little fertilizer, and water well.
Coolong says it's important not to plant Indian corn near sweet corn because they will cross-pollinate, and your sweet corn will not be very sweet. Keep the plots a minimum of 250-feet apart. But if you only have a small area for both crops, there is another strategy.
"One of the easier things to do if you don't have several-hundred feet is to just separate them based on time of pollination," says Coolong. "If you separate them by about 10-14 days, when they're tasseling, you can get effective separation that way."
The ears will set in early summer and should be left on the plant until later in the season. Coolong says for ornamental use, peel the husks back a little bit before they are completely dry on the plant. The husks maintain a nicer shape and not be as prone to tearing.
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