Archive for August, 2011
This summer, in our personal garden, we grew a bit of delicious sweet corn. We also planted an entire field of corn for our challenging corn maze. And included in our outdoor sales area is a selection of beautiful ornamental corn for your fall-themed yard displays. We are known for our pumpkins, but we have a lot of corn standing on the farm too. Have you ever wondered how those sweet little kernels come to be?
The growth of the corn plant is also a pretty incredible process. It starts by planting a seed in the ground. The seed is one kernel from a previous corn plant (which came first, the seed or the plant?). As the springtime temperature warms up, it warms the moist soil to above 55 degrees. The little seed then germinates and sends a sprout above ground to look for sunlight.
As the sprout gathers sunlight, a root shoots down into the soil to soak up water and nutrients. That little sprout that looks like blades of grass quickly shoots up into a thick stalk with the long pointed leaves. Sweet corn stalks are usually a few feet tall and some varieties (depending on the climate) can grow up to 15 feet.
Before they get too tall, this is the time we go through with the mower and cut the pattern for our corn maze.
About mid-July, a golden tassel develops at the top of the stalk. The tassel is basically the male flower. The ear of corn is the female portion of the plant with its flowers being the silk that sticks out the end. Each strand of silk corresponds to an individual kernel of corn on the ear. As the wind blows over the corn field, the pollen from the tassels drops onto the silk. From the time the silk appears, the corn has about a week to be pollinated or the plant will produce nothing. Each silk strand must be pollinated to fill the entire ear of corn with kernels. The pollen drops onto the silk and slides down into the ear where a new kernel is made.
A few weeks from pollination the first ears are ready to harvest. And it just wouldn’t be summer without some tasty sweet corn.
The Concessions Barn remodel has been moving along wonderfully. The layout is expanded. The new flooring is installed. The new counters are all in place. The most current work completed has been assembling all of the new shelving for work space and the displays for all of the delicious goodies.
We are running out of time to wrap things up before the farm opens. In less than a month we will begin entertaining private parties, and in just over a month we will be open to the public. As soon as we get the displays finished and the signs hung, we will just need to stock the shelves with the variety of delicious treats to whet your appetite. Stay tuned for final pictures and a run-through of our entire menu of offerings!
The gourd slingshots are ready to go. Much fun has been had already testing them out and planting apples all over the field! They are capable of launching small produce hundreds of feet at the target of your choosing. See how far you can sling a gourd or take aim at the various familiar Tweite’s Pumpkin Patch sights we moved out to the field to take the abuse you send flying through the air.
Remember to make your way down through the Outdoor Sales area and the Pumpkin Patch to find your produce launcher awaiting.
When you arrive on the farm in the fall to pick your pumpkins, the patch is full of large, beautiful orange pumpkins. But they didn’t just pop up out of the ground like that. What started in the spring, takes much guided care throughout the summer to end up with a field of orange. Here’s the amazing path of a pumpkin seed.
The pumpkin seeds are usually planted near the end of spring. They are planted fairly close together to maximize the possible number of plants that will grow. The ground needs to be warm and moist to germinate and begin to grow.
After a couple weeks, the seed sprouts from the ground with a couple of small leaves. We can see at this time which plants appear to be healthy and which ones may struggle to flourish. If allowed to continue growing at this spacing, the pumpkin plants will compete with one another and will not grow to full size. This is when we walk through the patch and pick out the weak looking plants and the plants that are competing with others.
Within the next few weeks, the plant develops large leaves and yellow flowers. The plant itself is a few feet in diameter now, sending vines in every direction across the ground. Male flowers appear first and more numerous than the female flowers. You can tell the difference by the small green ball that grows behind the female flower. That small ball is a pumpkin waiting to be pollinated by the male flower.
During the growth period, many other plants are competing for space in the patch. Weeds of all kinds love the open, fertile soil and seek to establish the field as a nightshade patch or a foxtail patch instead of a pumpkin patch. We need to walk up and down every row to pull every small plant that may compete with the pumpkins for precious nutrients, water, and sunlight.
At this time, the pumpkins are in a very important, and delicate, stage. The female flowers need to be pollinated by the male flowers, but they aren’t close enough to each other to accomplish the task. So, we hire some winged helpers to float around the patch and carry pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. The incredible part of pumpkin pollination is that the female flower needs to be visited up to 15 visits from a bee to produce a good pumpkin. On top of that, the female flower only opens itself up for a short period in the morning and for just a day. With hundreds of plants throughout the patch, those bees have a lot of work to do.
If a flower is not pollinated, it will wither and fall off; not producing any fruit. If pollination is successful, the small green pumpkin will begin to grow and by October the patch will be filled with big orange pumpkins awaiting your choosing.