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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Don't Eat Your Seed Corn

Right before I went to sleep last night, I was thinking about how the raccoons had ravaged my sweet corn. And then I suddenly realized I had made a tactical error in what appears to be a new battle against a new foe.

I realized that I had left the remaining sweet corn out in the garden, so when the raccoons returned, and I knew they would, they would find more to eat.

When I checked the garden earlier this evening, I was right. The raccoons had returned and I could see evidence that they had eaten more sweet corn.

So I picked all the remaining shattered ears off the stalks and off the ground and added them to the compost tumbler. This will serve two purposes.

First, when the raccoons return tonight, and I know they will, they won’t find any more sweet corn to eat. Hopefully, that’s all the encouragement they will need to move on to someplace else, anyplace else. Second, I can see how long it takes for corn cobs to break down in the compost tumbler.

I read somewhere that the Native Americans used to set up “viewing stands” around their fields and gardens of corn, beans and squash and then stand guard over them all day and all night.

This ensured they wouldn’t lose a crop to raccoons, rabbits, deer, and anyone or anything else that tried to get it.

They were also extremely protective of their seed corn. The seed corn was their future, they needed it for survival. They knew that no matter how hungry they got in the winter, if they ate their seed corn, they would surely starve by the next fall as there would be no more crops.

I’m not much of a seed saver, relying instead on the many companies that send me their seed catalogs every winter to provide me with all the seed I need each spring.

But I do believe gardeners shouldn’t eat their seed corn, whatever that is for them.

How do we avoid eating our ‘seed corn’ and actually increase our seed corn?

- By reading about gardening and getting good new ideas, and trying them out in our gardens.

- By taking care of ourselves so we have the strength and stamina to plant a new crop each spring and tend our gardens all year.

- By sharing passalong plants with others so that if a plant dies in our own garden, we have someone who can give us a fresh start of it from their garden.

- By sharing our knowledge of gardening with others, so they can learn to garden, too, and learn new things that they can in turn share with us.

- By practicing sustainable gardening methods, so we improve the garden each year and leave it whole for whoever gardens there after us.

No matter how desperate you get as a gardener, please don’t eat your ‘seed corn’.

13 comments:

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

Good advice. We must plan for the future and not think just of the gratification of the moment. I like the way you said it better, though.

Muum said...

my sweet corn's worst enemy so far this year is the wind! I haven't had critter probs yet. Last year I came up with a good solution/ barrier, now I am trying to remember what it was!

Kathryn/plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com said...

Oh, Carol, I'm sorry you now have raccoons. They are such a pain. They used to walk around my roof in the middle of the night down in Mill Valley. Many neighbors in Marin used to feed them and "think that was cute." Now THAT is a way of "eating your seed corn"--encouraging predators!

Pam/Digging said...

Good analogy, Carol. I'll remember to preserve my seed corn.

Frances, said...

Hi Carol, good advice, for sure. Those blasted raccoons. They terrorized us in our other TN house, getting in the garage through the cat door, eating the catfood and even carrying off the baby kittens! We don't feel kindly towards them at all. Now that we are riled up, we mustn't forget to save our seed corn too.

Lori said...

We battle the critters by playing a radio (under a wheel barrow or bucket) and hanging white plastic (grocery or shopping) bags among the edge rows. The noise and movement seem to confuse them long enough to save the corn for us.

Perennial Gardener said...

Great advice Carol in this post. We must keep thinking of the future.

Gail said...

Carol, Saving your seed corn is a great metaphor. Raccoons are not my nemesis, but I don't grow vegetables. Now ask me about squirrels and chipmunks! They are the pests at clay and limestone!

JGH said...

Fascinating story about the Native Nmericans. This year our 4th graders studied their gardens and planted corn beans and squash, the "three sisters garden"

Thanks for being so generous with your "seeds".

Daisy said...

I really liked your last point about practicing sustainable gardening methods to those who garden our spaces after us can be successful. There are so many in our community garden plot who don't seem to think of that. When people give them up or don't take care of them, it makes it so much harder for the person who comes in the next year.

I'm like you, I get my seeds from catalogues. But, I think the "don't eat your seed corn" is a good mantra for so many things in life. Whether it's encouraging delayed gratification or good investing, it's applicable to money, health and exercise, etc. It's a nice metaphor for good planning.

Brenda Kula said...

We just don't realize how fortunate we are today until something like this comes to our attention. I've just made my yard part of a wildlife habitat. Doesn't take all that much. Thanks for the info on "seed corn."
Brenda

Rose said...

As always, a great lesson or reminder for us all.
My father-in-law used to keep a radio going in the cornfield to keep the raccoons away. I've heard they don't like hip-hop music. Of course, your neighbors might not appreciate it:)

Mary said...

Darn critters...