Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pollinating Corn

When we started growing corn last year, our first crop was disappointing, to say the least. We did not know this at the time, but the corn was not getting pollinated well enough to produce those big juicy kernels we were so looking forward to. We discovered that we need to help the pollination process along because we do not have enough room to grow enough corn for it to self pollinate successfully.

Pollinating corn is easy, once you know how to do it.

Corn in EarthBox last August
When your corn starts to mature it produces a tassel which is the male part of the corn anatomy, the tassel releases pollen once the silk from your ear starts to appear. The silk is the female part of the corn anatomy. Each silk has the potential to become a juicy corn kernel but it needs the pollen from the tassel for that to happen.

There are several techniques for pollinating corn, the one Farmer D devised last year, gave us an incredible second crop of corn.

Farmer D will demonstrate his technique.
Supplies needed:
1 medium sized paper bag
Corn plants that have tassels and are starting to produce silk

Corn with tassel and silk - ready for pollination.

Tassel with pollen

Farmer D uses a paper bag to capture the tassel pieces and pollen that he gently removes.

Gently removing tassel grains and capturing in bag

Captured tassel pieces

Then he sprinkles it directly onto the silk of the corn.

Placing tassel pieces directly onto corn silks

Helping your small crop of corn with pollination will increase the number of good kernels that you find when you open up the husk on your freshly picked ears of corn. Farmer D does this on a daily basis after the silks have started to appear. Your corn should be ready to harvest about 18 days after the silk first appears, when the silk has dried and browned. 

Gidget inspects our rooftop EarthBox corn; no tassels yet. 


  1. Very interesting and informative! This is the kind of advice that me as a novice is so appreciative of! Thanks for saving me from a disappointing corn harvest! Gidget is adorable in this picture. Maybe Farmer D could train her to help with capturing the pollen... corn tassels look like the purrrfect kitty toy.

  2. Such interesting and helpful information! We haven't planted corn for a few years now, just because there are too many farms near us, and I don't want our corn pollinated with anything that contains chemicals or GMOs. But if we do decide to grow corn again, I'll definitely be using Farmer D's method for pollinating. If we plant early enough and use an early variety, we can probably get our corn harvest before the field corn begins to tassel. At this point, we don't have room for corn, but your pollination method just may inspire us to plant some again next year. Thanks, Crystal!

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