Plant corn in a block for better yield

Sufficient pollen must hit the silks of an immature ear of corn in order for the kernels inside to expand. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Sufficient pollen must hit the silks of an immature ear of corn in order for the kernels inside to expand. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: I only got three scrawny ears off my 30 stalks of corn. Any idea why it didn’t produce? It doesn’t look like any ears developed on most of the plants. Mike Childers, email

A: Poor pollination is my first guess. Corn pollen travels on air currents from the tassel at the top of the stalk down to the silks of immature ears below. The pollen grains travel down the individual silks to cause the kernels to grow. Insects are not involved. To get the densest pollen distribution, it’s best for home gardeners to plant corn in a square block rather than in rows.

Q: I want to enhance a relative’s front garden by adding a few small conifers. Can you recommend dwarf conifers that will do well in Atlanta? Michael Webster, East Point

A: The phrase “dwarf conifers” seems simple but things get complicated fast. An online search for dwarf conifers yields many that simply cannot tolerate Atlanta summers. In addition, many that are called “dwarf " might not fit your own size constraints. Some species have different varieties that are more or less dwarf and more or less tolerant of our weather. Karin Guzy, chair of the Cobb Land Trust, has been experimenting with dwarf conifers since 1989. She recommends dwarf Alberta spruce ‘Pixie Dust’, Thujopsis dolobrata ‘Nana’, and the elegant, ground-covering Microbiota decussata, called Siberian Cypress. You can also visit the conifer section of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, atlantabg.org, to see what has succeeded there. The American Conifer Society, conifersociety.org, lists several public gardens in Georgia that they use as reference gardens for conifers that thrive in the Southeast. Don’t forget that most conifers grow best in full sun and in soil that drains quickly. Loosen the soil thoroughly in a wide area around each plant.

Q: I ordered a bag of cottonseed meal fertilizer online and paid $74 for 50 pounds. Then I found a place in Newnan that has it $19 for 50 pounds. Can I use this as fertilizer too? Orlando Madariaga, Kennesaw

A: Any cottonseed meal can be used for fertilizer. When it’s sold as plant food, it has to be tested for its content of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The testing is expensive. But when it’s sold as animal feed, the fat, fiber, protein testing is much less expensive. This explains the difference in cost. Apply 10 pounds per 100 square feet of garden, making sure to incorporate it into the soil for best results.

Walter’s email address is georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his comments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener, for his latest tips.