Saturday Single No. 298

A cold front came through last night, breaking the heat wave that had settled here for most of this week (and that still torments much of the country). And after worrying for most of the week about the small stand of corn in our nearer garden, the Texas Gal could comfortably tend to it this morning.

In the past ten days, the corn stopped growing and its leaves turned from the preferred dark green to a sickly yellow green. Too much water? Not enough water? We didn’t know. We’d never grown corn before, and my long-ago adventures running through the corn fields at my grandfather’s farm told me no more than we already knew: Our corn was the wrong shade of green.

We found the answer Wednesday, as the Texas Gal used a portion of her Independence Day holiday to dig online into the mystery. One of the many gardening sites she frequents informed her that pale green leaves on corn are a sign that the corn is not getting enough nitrogen. Double-checking, she googled for photos of corn with low nitrogen, and the sickly corn in the resulting photos was a perfect yellowish green match for the corn in our front yard.

We clearly needed some type of additive or fertilizer or plant food. And we needed guidance. But it was Independence Day, and all of the garden centers and hardware stores were closed, their owners and employees likely having picnics in the heat and shooting off fireworks. So we left the matter of the yellowing corn for another day and went out to lunch. (We drove the eleven or so miles to the little town of Clear Lake to try the Brick Yard Bar & Grill, a restaurant we’ve driven past for many years without stopping. It had a decent if unadventurous menu, tasty hamburgers and a limited beer list with a few good brews. We’ll probably go back, but not very often.)

Having left the corn’s needs for Thursday, the Texas Gal used a portion of her lunch hour that day to visit perhaps the oldest garden center in St. Cloud. I recall my folks buying flowers there in the mid-1960s. And the current staff knew just what she needed: blood meal, a nitrogen-rich product made from the blood of cows. The Texas Gal says it looked like black dirt as she laid it in shallow channels cut between the rows of corn this morning.

There is, to be sure, something both ordinary and gruesome about using a substance called blood meal to encourage one’s corn. Earlier this week, the Texas Gal read – as I have in the past – that the Seventeenth Century Pilgrims in Plymouth Colony were taught by a Native American named Squanto to plant their corn with dead fish as fertilizer. Turns out, unsurprisingly, that dead fish are nitrogen-rich, and so is cows’ blood. But faced with the idea of processed cows’ blood in our garden, my imagination untethers itself and I have visions of zombie corn.

Unlikely, I know. A more probable result, if we are fortunate, is that the corn’s leaves will once again turn dark green, the corn will once more grow, and sometime late this summer, we will feast on fresh roasted corn. In that green hope, here’s a song that was a favorite of mine during a long-ago summer: “Green, Green” by the New Christy Minstrels. It went to No. 14 in 1963, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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3 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 298”

  1. Paco Malo says:

    Thank the Texas Gal for me for her research; greenish yellow leaves about in the lilies in my garden bed. I’d been fertilizing with only coffee grounds and potting soil to save money. I’m gonna run out a get a box of whippets to them a hit a nitrogen as soon as I can. 😉

  2. Yah Shure says:

    I’m glad to hear that the corn mystery’s been solved. Perhaps you could dry out a few ears and hang the resulting zombie corn above the door on Halloween to delight the trick-or-treaters.

    My problem was having plenty of lush green foliage but comparatively little fruit on my pepper plants, a result of too much nitrogen in Miracle-Gro’s all-purpose formula. The ideal ratio for peppers once in bloom seems to be 1-2-2, according to what I’ve found online. Problem was, I couldn’t find that exact ratio in any existing product. One came somewhat close, but the dosage was very weak. Still, I got more peppers per plant when I tried it last summer.

    This year, I decided to make my own fertilizer blend. The not-at-all appealing grayish color of the “final mix” might explain why the Miracle-Gro folks haven’t concocted a prettier product. So far, so good on the results of the 1-2-2 and periodic epsom salt applications.

    Nice call on “Green, Green.” Nick Woods’ memorable signature guitar riff never fails to bring me a smile. Pair it with Tanya Tucker’s “Blood Red And Going Down” and the crops’ll love it.

  3. […] Our first attempt at growing corn whimpered to a stunted halt, overwhelmed by heat, the lack of nitrogen and […]

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