Ask the master gardeners
Q: Last summer in the Bird-Friendly Vegetable Garden at the Bedford Audubon Society we planted two types of corn, popcorn (from cobs I got at a farmers market) and Indian painted corn (2009 seeds). The plants grew right next to each other in a Three Sisters bed. The results were very different. The popcorn plants produced full cobs of well-developed kernels while the painted corn cobs had almost no kernels at all. I suspect the problem had to do with pollination, but I have no idea why pollination would be so different for the two varieties.
— Catherine Clare
A: Most likely you did not have enough plants or they were not planted close enough together. Indian corn requires a long hot growing season, so it needs to be planted in early May in our area.
Plant this corn a minimum 100 feet from other types of corn if you plan to save the seeds for next year. If you plant several different varieties of corn in the same area , cross-pollination will occur. You will not get the same type of corn next year.
Grow at least five rows of corn in blocks rather than in long rows. The more Indian corn you grow, the more likely they will pollinate. Corn is wind pollinated for the most part, but the closer and more dense you plant corn in a block, the better the pollination.
Keep the Indian corn well watered during hot summer months. Corn uses a high amount of water for ear production. Harvest long after the hair on the corn turns brown.
Krys Mernyk, Sleepy Hollow, master gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester