This is our third summer growing vegetables. Last week I harvested garlic, this morning I picked our first zucchinis, and as I look out on my veggie patch I see a veritable forest of tomato plants which will yield a harvest FAR beyond our ability to consume them. But no corn. Despite the fact that we love corn, and would gladly eat as much as we could grow. there is no corn.
The reason for this is that our past two years of corn-growing have been abject failures. As it turns out, corn growing is tricky business: you need a certain number of days all above a certain temperature. The soil needs to be not only warm, but also well-aired and rich in nitrogen. We thought we had the perfect soil – but in the first year our soil spent 3 months growing and only reached 3ft in height before being toppled by an early autumn wind storm. No crop.
The following year we started earlier, read more… and the initial growth was better. But after 4 months again we had 3-4 feet stalks with TINY corn heads. We told Teg they were “baby corns” (as if we’d grown them that way on purpose), and ate the whole lot as a sprinkling on one summer salad. Pathetic.
Meanwhile, on the way to J’s work we pass corn field after corn field which rapidly shoot their way towards the standard 8-and-a-half feet corn height. “Wow,” we think, “farmers are SO much more impressive than we give them credit for.”
Here’s one of the things that the farmers have got right though: they know that corn likes company. Maize needs mates. You cannot grow just one stalk of corn, or even just 6 or 8. You need a minimum of a 5 by 5 square of it (not a long row, mind you – it needs a CLUMP for cross-pollination).
Which makes me think: Christians are a lot more like corn than zucchini. Christians who think they can “go it alone” and have fantastic growth all by themselves, as long as they give themselves the right kind of “soil” (teaching input, spiritual disciplines etc)… may well land up looking like the corn in our garden: stunted growth, minimal fruit, susceptible to the first big winds of the season. To really thrive, you need to be with other corn – cross-pollinating, sharing the sun, working the soil, growing tall together.