ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Permaculture Solution For A Really Rooty Situation. Sweet Corn Growing Without A Garden Bed

Updated on August 12, 2015
The corn in my improvised bed looks surprisingly close in quality to the sweet corn in the regular garden bed.
The corn in my improvised bed looks surprisingly close in quality to the sweet corn in the regular garden bed.

As above, so below

The crown of the tree at top left extends over twenty feet -- and so do its roots.
The crown of the tree at top left extends over twenty feet -- and so do its roots.

After all the good garden spots have been used

Once the south-facing full-sun well-drained areas have stuff growing in them, it's time to fix up the potential garden spots with issues. In this case, lots of tree roots.

I didn't want to damage the tree's system of getting food and water for itself, but my small backyard is shady and shaped like a cereal bowl. Plantable space is precious. I wanted to start a row of corn next to a couple of raised beds I put it last year. I have corn growing in a raised bed I built over the back part of our driveway, so I needed a place to plant this second variety of corn away from where the pollen from the first corn might blow. I have enough garden problems without frankenveggies.

It was time for a "no-dig" garden! Easy on my back, used fifty cents' worth of materials, and took fifteen minutes.

Bottom layer with an "aisle" of dirt down the middle

I pulled up the worst of the weeds (the rest will smother) & added armfuls of partially-composted leaves. Straw, hay, grass clippings, etc. would work too. Then a 5-gal. bucket of potting mix went in a stripe down the middle.
I pulled up the worst of the weeds (the rest will smother) & added armfuls of partially-composted leaves. Straw, hay, grass clippings, etc. would work too. Then a 5-gal. bucket of potting mix went in a stripe down the middle.

Part of permaculture is using only the space you need

Corn was going in this bed and it grows straight down and straight up. A planted corn kernel needs soil, water & nutrition directed in a circle about a foot across. Anything outside that circle is wasted.

If I'd piled potting soil in a giant running mound in this same sapce, I would have had to work harder to keep the dirt particles in place. Rain plus gravity would have pushed much of the soil down the sides of the mound. I would need solid walls built up to hold the soil in. And I would have needed at least five times the soil I used -- cha-ching! Too expensive.

Leaves are a little acidic, but I already add garden lime because my soil mix (based on peat moss) requires it. I just add a bit more lime to balance out the leaves' pH.

Next, some paper

A row of paper (shredded, with brown paper toweling on top) went on each side of the planting area. Clumps of compos/soil mix hold the paper down.
A row of paper (shredded, with brown paper toweling on top) went on each side of the planting area. Clumps of compos/soil mix hold the paper down.

Using what I have

Brown leaves alone aren't enough to build a no-dig garden. They leave big gaps and by themselves, they compost themselves very slowly. So my next layers, to each side of the planting area, were shredded newsprint (I would have preferred paper without ink but this is what I had) and then some brown paper toweling from the janitorial supplies department of an online office store.

This next layer was to stabilize the new bed, help fill gaps, and help the whole thing compost more quickly into a finer soil-like texture. For the soil piles holding down the brown toweling, I used a mixture of potting soil and some leaves and soil dug out of the yard in another spot. This last is to introduce needed microbes into the potting soil, which might not have the helpful bacteria needed.

From now on, I'll have to compensate for too-close planting

Ideally, corn kernels go a foot apart but space is at a premium so these are 8 or 9 inches apart. To keep the plants from fighting over resources, I will keep them sell-watered and add plenty of worm-casting water, rich in nitrogen.
Ideally, corn kernels go a foot apart but space is at a premium so these are 8 or 9 inches apart. To keep the plants from fighting over resources, I will keep them sell-watered and add plenty of worm-casting water, rich in nitrogen.

Mounding soil only over corn seeds

Rather than add another entire 5-gal. bucket of potting mix, I put a large handful of soil over each corn kernel. One leaf marks the soil mounds.
Rather than add another entire 5-gal. bucket of potting mix, I put a large handful of soil over each corn kernel. One leaf marks the soil mounds.

Now, more leaves but just a few on top

Now, more leaves at the sides, with just a few lightly over the planted area. Corn is a nice strong healthy shoot which rises straight up, but I still need to keep the covering light over the planted kernel so the new plant doesn't have to fight its way out.

Added leaves at the sides build up the bed and help keep the soil in place. They also discourage weeds along the growing area.

Directed watering, permaculture style!

Scooping water from a 5-gallon bucket and then letting it spray from the bottom of a doubled plastic pot "waterer" keeps H20 where I want it. Gentle spray doesn't dislodge seeds.
Scooping water from a 5-gallon bucket and then letting it spray from the bottom of a doubled plastic pot "waterer" keeps H20 where I want it. Gentle spray doesn't dislodge seeds.

13 and a half minutes later

Once I scrounge a bit more repurposed 2X4, I'll have a tider edge at left. Simply watering the bed compressed it all some. Stray leaves blown away will be raked back in place till it all composts together.
Once I scrounge a bit more repurposed 2X4, I'll have a tider edge at left. Simply watering the bed compressed it all some. Stray leaves blown away will be raked back in place till it all composts together.

Using what I got

I've seen permaculture people use everything in the world but plain old dirt to grow their plants in -- sand, straw, sawdust, compost. . . What I have for free here is A. Shredded paper (we get the community papers and there are a lot of them here in this town where ad revenue from pubs and restaurants support journalism. I have a shredder I got at Goodwill for $3 so I can turn those papers into a lot of shredded paper. I would prefer paper without ink, but. . . B. Leaves, mostly maple. I do need to use Compost Quick to help them break down into something closer to compost. I also add garden lime or crushed Tums to balance out the leaf pH which is a little acidic. C. Flattened cardboard boxes. I layer these with the leaves and some compost and some soil to make a base layer, then add looser materials on top, and then plant the individual seeds or beans in little mounds of potting mix.


I also have easy access to peat moss, so that's my not-free-but-cheap basis for a soil mix I make. To the peat, I add potting soil (the kind that costs about $5 for 40 lbs.) and then sand if I have that, and regular old dirt if I have that, plus some compost right out of the bin plus some castings from the worm bin.

I used to make a fancier mix with more expensive ingredients, but I retired early and now I am stretching my budget by working with whatever materials I have handy.

Update! The corn is growing nicely

I guess the plants like the rough-and-rustic uncomfposted leaf mulch. These plants have sturdier stalks than the Double Standard plants. Not sure if it's just being a different variety or whether the corn really likes his toss-and-plant bed better.
I guess the plants like the rough-and-rustic uncomfposted leaf mulch. These plants have sturdier stalks than the Double Standard plants. Not sure if it's just being a different variety or whether the corn really likes his toss-and-plant bed better.
I pushed away a few loose leaves where the cold-hardy variety was shooting up and I was happy with the color and well-formed leaves.
I pushed away a few loose leaves where the cold-hardy variety was shooting up and I was happy with the color and well-formed leaves.

Newest updte! Corn plants look good

Nice color on the leaves.
Nice color on the leaves.
Source

Thank you for reading this!

Whether you have been growing windowsill herbs for many years, tending an acre truck garden on a back lot for the last two years, or you just bought your first packet of seeds, I find it helps to see the real-life experiences of others. In these green living / permaculture / gardening posts, I'm sharing my successes, near-successes, utter failures, and experiments with do-overs in the hope that we can do online what a community garden plot does for people who are neighbors in real life.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)