Gardening Articles: Care :: Pests & Problems

Corn Diseases, Insects, and Pests (page 3 of 4)

by National Gardening Association Editors

Uninvited Guests

One of the biggest challenges in growing corn is keeping it for yourself. From the day you plant to the day you're ready to harvest, it seems there's always some critter who'd just love to share in the bounty. Fortunately, most of the animals and birds that invade corn can be outwitted. Raccoons are smarter than we'd like them to be, but they, too, can be kept at bay. Here are some ideas to keep corn free of uninvited guests. Some of these tricks can solve pest problems in other parts of your garden, as well.

Raccoons are well known for their expertly timed raids on the sweet corn patch. Many people start their tales of raccoon damage with the words, "The night before we were going to pick the first, ripe, sweet corn …." When you lose ripening sweet corn to raccoon raiders, you swear they were on hand at planting time reading your seed packets, jotting down the days to harvest and keeping track of the time back in the woods. Actually, raccoons are attracted by the smell of the sweet corn tassels.

There are many old-time tricks to keep raccoons out of the corn patch, but only one rule: Put your defense in action before the raccoons can set a single foot in your garden. Once an animal has tasted your sweet corn, it will be almost impossible to keep it out of the garden.

To protect sweet corn, try these ideas:
* Erect a three-foot-high chicken-wire fence topped by an electrical wire.

* Play a portable radio in the cornfield all night.

* Plant a crop such as pole beans, pumpkins or winter squash between rows of corn. Supposedly, raccoons don't like to tread on vines or foliage covering the ground around cornstalks. Also, the lush foliage of pole beans cuts down the raccoons' ability to see, and this, too, is said to discourage their corn raids.

Other Critters

Some of the methods that keep raccoons out will also work for skunks, woodchucks, deer and squirrels. An electric fence is the best all-around pest barrier, except when it comes to squirrels. These agile creatures aren't put off by fences, electric or not. One way to keep squirrels away is to sprinkle red pepper or Tabasco sauce on some ears on the outer rows of the corn. It won't affect the corn's flavor when it's cooked, but any squirrel, skunk or raccoon who takes a nibble of the "hot" ears isn't likely to come back for seconds.

It seems there's an endless list of home remedies to try to keep the corn patch free of four-footed pests: running barefoot around the corn rows to leave a strong human scent; tying your dog near the corn to guard it; placing a paper bag over each ear; the bag of tricks seems bottomless. Some of these methods work some of the time, so try anything you think might work for you. Using several methods in succession or simultaneously increases your chances of success.

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