How To Manually Pollinate Corn

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This is the second posting in my blog on How to Manually Pollinate Corn.

Many gardeners do not have the room necessary to grow corn in blocks for the best pollination.  Even then, the natural method of spreading pollen onto the silks of corn isn't all that great – and meany times leaves the outer perimter of corn more to be desired.

In my garden, I have corn in three different beds.  One area has corn in rows of about 13 long and with 3 rows.  Another area only has one row of about 13 – and in the last one, about 15 rows long by 5 rows (two rows of these are in containers like five-gallon buckets).

In order to ensure that all the corn comes up well, it is best to manually pollinate corn.  I did this last year with the Sugar Dots corn and had great success – and I am doing the same this year.  Actually, I worked today on pollinating five stalks (since that is all that is ready at this point).

I have pictures in this entry to show the steps on how to do so.  Sure, it takes a little more time, but I believe it is worth the time to ensure every stalk supplies one – or even two very good ears of corn.

Step 1 –  Cut off the tassels from the stalks

Many folks just shake the tassels and expect the pollen to go down to the silks.  I don't go with this method – especially on windy days.  So, I actually cut off the tassels and then place them in a gallon ice-cream bucket.  Ocassionally throughout the day, I will shake the tassels in this container to release the pollen

Note – when you cut off the tassels, make sure that at some of the flower-looking buds that hold the pollen should already be opened.  This ensures that the tassels are beginning to mature and pollen is being produced.  Don't wait too long to where most of them are open, though.

Here is a picture showing about five tassels in the ice-cream bucket:

Corn Tassels Cut Off

Step 2 – Strain the pollen from the bucket (or where the cut-off tassels are located)

I use a smaller sour cream bucket with a very fine mesh over the top (basically I use a mesh that was used to make a screened-in patio).  I take the tassels and put them in another ice cream bucket – then empty the original ice cream bucket through the mesh into the sour cream container.  This will then allow the pollen to fall through and keep the buds out of the pollen.

Here shows sour cream container with a paint brush and a good amount of pollen (this was only from five tassels!).

Corn Pollen Shaken from Tassels

Step 3 – Cut down the length of the silks so they are easier to pollinate.

This step isn't necessary, but it makes pollinating the corn extremely easy.  All of the silks go every which-way but if they are all cut to on length close to the leaves, they all "glob" together and ensure that the pollinating is even and uses as little pollen as possible (if you don't have a lot of pollen in the first place!).

Step 4 – Use a paint brush to pick up pollen and brush over the silks

Very easy to do – especially if you went through Step 3 and cut the silks to all the same length.  Gently put the paint brush into the container with pollen and dab it on the silks.  Make sure you are thorough and get on all sides of the silks and ensure each one has pollen.

Here is a photo of the silks covered with pollen and also cut back to one size.

Corn Silks cut with Pollen on them

Step 4 (Optional) – Mark the stalks of corn when you pollinated them

I mark the corn with clothes pins and use a sharpie to put the date on them.  Why do I do this?  It is noted that approximately 21 days after the silks emerge, the corn is ready to be harvested.  So, quickly at a glance when I go out to the garden to see what needs harvested, I can easily look at the clothes pins and see which ears ned to be pulled.

As an example – today only five of the corn stalks had a good amount of silks on them and were pollinated.  So I put the date of "22" on the clothes pin.  Tomorrow I may have more that need to be pollinated, so that will be "23" and so on.  Not all the corn will be ready for pollination at the same time

Here is a photo showing the clothes pin with the date.

Clothes Pin Showing Date Pollinated

And that is how to manually pollinate corn!

As a side note, I learned something from last year.  Pollen will only last a day or two after being shaken.  This is mostly due to humidity getting to the pollen and making it clump together.  At this point, the pollen isn't good.  So, ensure that you have a good supply of pollen.  I recommend only clipping off the tassels of plants that have a decent amount of silks showing on them so you can shake the pollen and use it the same day.  With the method of cutting the tassels off and shaking them, one tassel will easily cover 5+ stalks of corn.

Another side note – you also need to check on the corn you pollinated for a few days.  If you notice that more silks have emerged (easy to tell if you have cut all of them to the same length as the new silks will be longer and stand out), you need to ensure to pollinate the new strands of silk and cut those back as well.  Otherwise, you won't get a kernel in that spot of the cobb.

Also note that many times, you will get two ears of corn per stalk.  While you pollinate the first set of silks, you will need to go back and pollinate the second set when they emerge.  Again, I will do the same exact procedure above – and also not on the clothes pin the second date that the second ear had silk emerging and was pollinated.

Canning, Corn, Green Beans, and Lettuce Planting

Wow, it has been over a week since the previous post!

Back on August 12th – a day after the last garden update, the wife & I canned some goodies!  With the tomatoes and cucumbers we picked the day before, it was time to put some of them to use.  There was just too much to eat within a few days, so why not can them!

We canned five containers of tomatoes and four containers of pickles.  I do have to say – the Burpee Pickler cucumbers are much better for canning!  They seem to be more crisp and do not have nearly the number of seeds – although they did have some seeds.

To make the pickles, we just cut the cucumbers up into slices and filled the jars with them.  During this time, we had a package of the Ball's Picking Mix going over the stove at a boil.  The pickling mix was about $2 at the local farm store.  For the picking mix, it requires one package, six cups of water, and 2.5 cups of vinegar.  The mix says it will make four quarts, but we still had enough left to do another quart (which I did yesterday night).  I guess it all depends on how well you fill the jars.  Then, put in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.  Ensure the hot water bath is at a rolling boil before starting the countdown.

To make the tomatoes, we dipped each tomato in hot boiling water for about a minute.  Then, cut a small incision in the tomatoes and peel the skins right off!  Afterwards, ensure to cut the pieces however you wish before putting them in the cans.  Make sure to really press as much as you can into the jar – otherwise you will be left with air bubbles (which over time go to the top and make the water level lower) and you will also be left with a large gap of water solution at the bottom while all the tomatoes float towards the top.  Add two tablespoons of lemon juice to each container (used to lower the pH to allow the tomatoes to preserve longer) and then put in a hot water bath for 45 minutes.  The hot water bath needs to be going at a rolling boil before you start the countdown.

So, here is the results of a day of canning on August 12:

Tomato and Pickle Canning

Now, onto items from yesterday and today.

Yesterday I canned another good amount of tomatoes and pickles.  This time, it was three quarts of pickles and six quarts of tomatoes.  Last time I had trouble with the water level in the tomatoes so I added the two tablespoons of lemon juice and some water into the cans beforehand.  I then pushed the tomatoes into each can.  Well, this didn't work all that well either – and it seems I was able to get more tomatoes in the jars by putting the tomatoes in first – then adding the lemon juice and water.  The gap at the bottom this time seemed to be over an inch – so I just ended up using more jars than really was needed.  I probably could have put the six quarts of tomatoes in five quarts.

So far to date, we have quite a bit of canning that has been done!

Canning Done So Far

This morning I got up and decided that the Black Simpson Elite lettuce needed to be transplanted into the garden.  I wasn't exactly sure where to put the lettuce at, but I made room by taking out some old green bean plants.  The green plants taken out were in the front bed next to the peppers.

Black Simpson Elite Lettuce Transplanted

While planting the lettuce, I noticed that there were a few red California Wonder peppers!  Wow, I was surprised to see those!  There were three peppers that were in different stages of turning red, but I picked all of them today.  After seeing these, I am thinking that the rest of them will be harvested when they are red.

Red California Wonder Peppers

Just a quick picture of the back green bean bed – it is coming along rather nicely and there have already been some green beans picked from here!

Green Beans

Well, another tragedy hit the corn a few days ago.  We had another bomber of a storm come through with 60+ mile per hour winds.  There was at least one tornado that touced down about 45 miles southwest of us from this storm as well.  Well, when the storm hit us, it knocked down all of the corn again.  When I got home and saw the devestation, I was quite ticked off and blew off some steam by saying I wasn't going to do anything about it – that I was fed up with nursing the corn back to life.  Well, after about 30 minutes, I went out there with some stakes and twine – and I tied up each of the three rows of corn to one another and attached them to some stakes to keep them in place.  The Peaches & Cream corn is over five feet tall now and are just beginning to put on their tassels.

Unfortunately, the Sugar Dogs corn isn't goign to produce very well – if any.  I left them in the small starter planters way too long (about three weeks) and this was enough to stunt them and make the corn think they were robbed for nutrients and space.  The Sugar Dots corn ranges in height between two feet and four feet tall – and the tassels have already emerged on them and pollen is coming out.  So, it is quite a shame but over 90 of the corn plants are not going to produce – but we should get about 50 cobbs out of the Peaches & Cream.

While I can't speak for the flavor of Peaches & Cream yet, I still think it is going to be worth the extra cost of purchasing the Sugar Dots corn online – since it isn't sold around here any longer.  The flavor was fantastic and each stalk put on two ears of corn.  So, it is basically getting double the production out of the same amount of area.  Time will still tell for the Peaches & Cream corn since I don't see any spot on the corn where the ears will emerge yet.

Peaches & Cream Corn

Garden Update – August 11, 2009

Time for another full garden update with pictures.

Yesterday the wife picked over five pounds of green beans – yes FIVE pounds of green beans!  Previously the most I picked was maybe a bit over two pounds so this was quite the increase.  But, there are double the number of green beans in the front garden now.

Green Beans

The beans we planted were the Bush Blue Lake 274 and Bush Blue Lake 47.  One of them (can't remember which now but it is in my paper logs) had a much better germination rate than the other – so I'll ensure to only buy those next year.

The front garden is busting at the seams!  The green beans are really taking over and growing well, and the Sugar Dots corn down the middle is just keeping ahead of the growth of the green beans.

Front Garden

The California Wonder pepper plants at the end of this garden have a large amount of peppers on them!  So far we've picked about 17 peppers from these eight plants and they keep producing.

 California Wonder Pepper plants

Meanwhile, the newest batch of green beans planted in the new raised bed are doing well.  They don't seem to stand well on their own, however.  Whenever I water them (since we haven't had rain in several days now), many of them fall over – but they seem to perk back up overnight.

Green Bean Patch

The Sugar Dots corn alongside the driveway are still coming along, but they are not doing all that well since they appear to only get between three and three and a half hours of sunlight a day.  The sun is getting lower in the sky day by day, and it isn't making it over one of the huge trees in the woods behind the house.  Then it starts to set over the garage on the other side of the driveway which shades them back out.

As for the potato bin – that one potato plant is still growing and is drooping over the side of the container.

Sugar Dots Corn

The Kennebec potatoes planted in this area of the garden are doing very well and continue to put more stems out.

Kennebec Potatoes

 The corn against the house and in various containers is doing spectactular!  They've grown very tall already.  They are at least two feet tall at this point.  There is a combination of Sugar Dots corn and Peaches  & Cream corn in the containers, and in the bed to the right side is all Peaches & Cream corn.

Peaches & Cream Corn

About a week and a half ago I planted 21 new seedlings of Black Simpson Elite lettuce to get ready for a fall crop.  Out of those 21, 19 have sprouted and so far they are doing well.  The weather over the weekend went up to about 90 – 92 degrees so I had to bring them inside on those days.  But, for the past two days, the weather has been mid-to-upper 80's.  I didn't expect so many lettuce to sprout as I was wanting about 12 plants.  Last time we had 12 (although one died after the first picking of lettuce) and we still gave quite a bit of lettuce to our neighbor.

Black Simpson Elite Lettuce Seedlings

Meanwhile, in the backyard, the cucumbers keep growing and there must be at least a dozen cucumbers on the Burpee Pickler and Marketmore 76 vines (one of each).  I was a bit surprisedwith the Burpee Pickler cucumbers because they are quite a bit larger than I expected.  While they aren't as large as the Marketmore76, they still are a good six or so inches long and the diamater is at least half that of the Marketmore 76.  When I purchased those seeds, I expected they would have been small cucumbers like what you find in non-cut pickles.

Marketmore 76 & Burpee Pickler Cucumbers

You can see in the front of the picture – the sad Red Cherry Tomato plant.  The other plant was pulled a few weeks back as it was fully dead, and this one is on it's way.  We have pulled maybe a pound of cherry tomatoes from this plant so far (pictures below).

The Best Boy and Roma tomato plants are doing alright, although the Best Boy plants are about dead as well.  The Roma tomato plants are the only ones that faired well this year.  But, the Best Boy tomatoes have given us some spectacular tomatoes – one was up to 12 ounces while most are around 6 – 8 ounces.

Roma & Best Boy Tomatoes

 Now, let me show you what was picked today.  There was almost three pounds of Roma tomatoes picked today along with almost three pounds of cucumbers.

There were a total of 21 Roma tomatoes on the scale:

Roma Tomatoes

Here in the cucumber picture, you can see the dark green cucumber – this one is the Burpee Pickler.  The other three are the Marketmore 76 cucumbers.  See that it is just as long as the Marketmore 76 cucumbers, but the diameter is about half.

Burpee Pickler & Marketmore 76 Cucumbers

And then a combination photo of the tomatoes and the cucumbers to end the post.

August 11 Harvest


RealTek 8185 Wireless on Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty


RealTek 8185 Slow on Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty
RealTek 8185 problems on Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty

I have been running Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty now for a few weeks and I like all of the extra features and the fact that it is open source.  Part of being open source is the idea of sharing information and passing along other solutions to others.

Since moving to Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty, I've noticed extreme wireless network slowness.

I have a Gateway MT3422 laptop with the RealTek 8185 wireless card built-in.  With Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty, there is bult-in support for this card using the rtl8180 driver that is in the kernel.  Unfortunately, this driver causes very bad wireless signal in Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty.

After reading several articles online, I finally was able to get a much better wireless signal.  In addition, the connection is much more stable and I don't have anymore problems with the RealTek 8185 wireless card in Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty.

To start off, you will want to download the ndiswrapper utilities.  To do this, go to your main menu and then choose Add/Remove.  In there, ensure that "All Available Applications' is selected.  Then type in "ndis" in the search box and wait for the results.  After a few moments, you should see "Windows Wireless Drivers" show up.  Check the box to install this and then hit Apply Changes.

This will install the graphic user interface for the ndiswrapper along with the ndiswrapper-common and ndiswrapper-utils packages.

Now that these are installed it is time to download the RealTek 8185 driver.  I have created an archive file that is available here which includes the three files needed.  Extract these to a folder in your home folder for easy access

Now that you have the RealTek 8185 wireless driver downloaded and ndiswrapper insalled, it is time to blacklist the built-in rtl8180 driver in Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty. Navigate and edit the /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf file.  In there, scroll all the way to the bottom and add the following line:

blacklist rtl8180

Now close and save this file.

Go ahead and reboot your PC.  Once back in Ubuntu, you'll notice that you are no longer connecting to your wireless card.  It is now time to get ndiswrapper and the recently downloaded drivers working.

Go to your main menu – System – Administration – Windows Wireles Drivers.

In here, click "Install New Driver".  Now, browse for the RealTek 8185 driver you just downloaded, and double-click on the net8185.inf file.  You may get a message about the hardware not being found, but that is fine.  You should now see the net8185 driver and it should say "Hardware present:  Yes".

You may then need to right-click on your network icon on your panel and choose "Enable Wireless".

How to Make Canned Salsa & A Big Storm

This past weekend the wife and I made some homemade salsa with all of the veggies we've had in the garden.  The salsa we made doesn't have near the number of ingredients that other canned salsas have – just because we wanted to stick with what we have for the most part.

The ingredients below made exactly seven quarts of salsa.  What is nice about this is salsa sold at our local supermarket goes for $1.49 for 24 ounces.  Quarts contains 32 ounces so the quart containers are 50% larger than the 24 ounce jars sold.  So, I figure that means the cost of a quart of salsa would be $1.49 + ($1.49 * 0.50) = $2.24 per quart of salsa.  Now figure that times seven quarts and we made approximately $15.68 worth of salsa – out of mostly things around the house!  Granted, I did have to buy a few things but overall, it maybe cost $5 in supplies (after the jars of course) to make the salsa.


  • 12 pounds of finely chopped tomatoes (we used a combination of our Roma tomatoes and Best Boy tomatoes)
  • 1 Tblsp Oregano
  • 8 finely diced green peppers
  • 2 Tblsp salt
  • 2 Tblsp minced garlic
  • 3 Tblsp chili powder (gives it a bit of some spice)
  • 2 Tsp pepper
  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • 4 6-ounce containers of tomato paste
  • 3 pounds of finely diced yellow or white onions

 The tomato paste just helps to make the salsa a bit more consistent and less watery.  However, by the time we were done, there were mostly big chunks.  The salsa was still a little watery, but by the time you add all the pepper and onion in, it adds a bit of extra flavor when combining all of the other spices.

 Now it is just a matter of slicing up all of the tomatoes, peppers, and onions very finely.  All of the other items were added to a large pot and warmed up – the tomato paste will lose its thick consistency when heated.  After everything is all sliced up, add it to the pot and warm up very well before putting into the quart containers.

Here is our big pot of salsa cooking:

Pot of Salsa

And here are the seven jars all completed!

Jars of Salsa

Overall, you may save mone when making your own salsa, but you sure don't save time.  It took us at least 3.5 hours to cut everything up and get the jars boiling.  Our water bath canner took the entire time to finally begin to boil so it worked out for the better.


Moving on to other gardening items, we had a major storm blow through this morning.  Unfortunately, it did quite the damage to the garden.


I didn't take any pictures of the garden with everything blown over, but the fencing around the front garden and old carrot section (where corn is now planted) were mostly toppled over.  I didn't expect the fencing to stay up very well since it wasn't meant to hold up to 60+ mph winds – hey, I didn't think we'd get a storm coming through like that this late in the season!

Well, after I got home from work, I had to go mend all of the corn – one by one.  All of them were toppled over for the fact that they were transplanted from grow pots to the garden.  So, they were not put down at a very good depth to keep them upright during high winds.

So, after a few hours of work, I managed to get all of the corn standing upright again.  They were all laying over on their sides so I had to mound up some soil around each of the stalks of corn.

Corn Stalks

Luckily, the beans in the new container didn't seem to be harmed in the ordeal.

Green Beans

The weather has been very cool throughout the month of July.  I guess they said that it has been the coolest July on record for over 100 years here in Central Illinois.  Well, it is going to warm back up again.  They are predicing higher 80's throughout this week and up to 94 on Sunday.

Speaking of Sunday, last Sunday (just a few days ago), I planted another 21 seedlings of Black Simpson Elite lettuce.  The weather tricked me into thinking it would be in the higher 70's for the rest of the year, so I wanted to get a start on some more lettuce.  I'm hoping to get at least 12 of them to sprout.  Last time we only had 12 lettuce plants and we got over 10 pounds of lettuce this past spring!  Don't ask me where it will go in the garden areas – because there is simply no room left anywhere to put more lettuce!  I guess we'll just have to find some more pots or containers to put them in.


July 30 Harvest

Quite a few items were picked on July 30th.  Little to my knowledge, there were two nice-sized cucumbers growing that I didn't see in all of the foliage.  So, they were picked today.  There were also a few Roma tomatoes and some Better Boy tomatoes picked.

But, the big story is the peppers.  I had noticed that the pepper plants  are really growing well now that they are not bound by the bird netting at the top of the raised bed.  Since then, they have grown at least another foot.  I also noticed that the pepper plants seemed to be leaning a bit.  So, I got the knife out and picked quite a few peppers.  Overall, there were 14 California Wonder peppers harvested.  I was going to hold off and pick them when they began to get a slight tint  of red on them – which would tell me that they would grow to be any larger and they were fairly ripe.  If you let the peppers get fully red, this will stop production on the plant from producing any other peppers.

However, there were a large amount of peppers on the plants.  Some had only a few while others were loaded.  I attribute those that only had a few to being crowded in by the green beans.  But now that those plants are getting taller, they are putting on many new flowers with small peppers beginning to form.

There are still quite a few peppers left on the plants that might be ready in a week or two.  I bet we get at least another two or three dozen peppers from these eight plants.  This compost mix that was used to fill the raised beds is really doing wonders for the veggies!

July 30 Harvest