We read up about pollinating corn. We saw the male flowers maturing on the tops of the stalks. With our small setup, we decided to hand-pollinate to ensure the corn cobs would fill out a full set of kernels. You only have a few days in which to do this, and a couple of hours each morning within those days. We placed some aluminum foil around the stalks, under the male flowers, in hopes of collecting some early morning pollen.
The foil seemed to work. We used a little paintbrush to collect pollen that had fallen into the makeshift foil cups, as well as from the male flowers themselves. Some pollen also lands in the little cup-shaped scoop where the upper leaves branch off from the stalk.
We gave the female flowers (corn silk) a haircut to make pollinating them easier.
…and brushed the pollen onto the female flowers, trying to hit every single strand of silk.
We could see that the grains of pollen had stuck in all the right places.
This task was so timing-specific that we did the best we could, but felt as though not 100% of the silks would end up pollinated. In the end we did get some corn cobs out of this, but as I suspected, the soil nutrients and available sun were not enough to provide us with a real bumper crop. Corn is a heavy feeder, so regardless, I would probably not want to grow it every year so as not to deplete the few nutrients that I do have.
Once the cobs are harvested, a nice chunk of space opens up in the garden for a new planting. We sowed bush beans where we pulled up the corn. We’ll try corn again in a year or two!