Henrik Norbeck's Plant Culture Blog

Magpies

7 Jun 2021

Young magpie
One of my neighbours has a spruce tree in her garden where magpies usually build their nest. Yesterday when I came home from shopping groceries there were three young magpies sitting in my garden, which had obviously just left the nest. I've had problems with magpie youngsters before, since they tend to use my garden as a playground, pulling plants, pecking at strawberries etc. Magpie young are simply not compatible with growing vegetables. So I kindly told these magpie youngsters to go somewhere else - to some neighbour who doesn't grow vegetables. Two of them quickly followed my advice, summoned on by their chattering parents, but the third one seemed a bit weak and hid in a bush instead and I just couldn't get it to fly after its siblings. This morning I saw it hopping about in my garden. When I came out it hid under my car, but then hopped away. I followed after it to make sure it hopped to my neighbour's garden instead. It seems very weak and does not fly as well as its siblings and will probably not hop about for very long before it is taken by a cat.

My Maize Growing History

16 Apr 2021

Cob of Painted Mountain
Painted Mountain
I've been interested in growing food plants for a long time. My interest in maize was kindled when I was in America and saw some "Indian corn", i.e. multicoloured ornamental corn.

In 2004 I started a serious garden again (after many years' break) when I got an allotment in the Stockholm suburb of Skarpnäck. From the first year I grew some plants of ornamental corn from seeds I bought from the small Swedish seed company Impecta.

Dakota Black, White Selection, Tom Thumb
Dakota Black, White Selection, Tom Thumb
In 2006 I grew popcorn for the first time, when I had found seeds for the early maturing miniature variety "Tom Thumb". The seed company Weibulls sold it as a seed for kids. I harvested two small cobs with a total of 157 seeds (20 grams). When I popped these I discovered that they tasted distinctly better than the normal popcorn you buy in the supermarket. Apart from the satisfaction of growing my own popcorn I also realised that there are differences in taste and texture between different popcorn varieties and that those that are sold most are absolutely not the best. Some seeds also happened to cross with the ornamental corn I grew next to the popcorn, which triggered the idea of multicoloured popcorn.

In 2007 I discovered the flour maize "Painted Mountain" and started growing it. The small Swedish seed company Runåbergs had started selling this. It matures early and is beautiful with all its colours, and is a variety that actually grows very well in southern Sweden at least all the way up to Stockholm. This variety gave an earlier and more reliable harvest than the ornamental corn I had grown before.

In 2009 I tried to direct seed instead of growing in small pots that were then planted. I had read a bit and understood that ordinary maize can be sown from a soil temperature of 10 °C, and that it can be sown earlier in Spring. It's only sweet corn that needs a higher soil temperature. Of course I've grown sweet corn too during all these years to eat as a vegetable. Sweet corn is so much better when it's picked fresh from the plant.

For 2010 I started looking around for other coloured maize varieties, which I bought through Ebay. That year I grew "Oaxacan Green Dent" and "Miniature Rainbow Popcorn". "Oaxacan Green Dent" is one of the most beautiful maize varieties I know of, and can actually be grown to maturity in the Stockholm area. "Miniature Rainbow Popcorn" was more difficult, but I managed to get som mature cobs sometimes.

Crossed popcorn
Crossed popcorn from 2014
In 2011 I decided to test growing popcorn seriously. I had found some more rather early types then. I dug up a plot at my summer house south of Linköping, since the nearest other corn there is several kilometers away and there is no risk of crosses. If the popcorn varieties should cross with each other I would only see it as an advantage, since it would give rise to new interesting varieties. That year I grew "Tom Thumb", "Mini Japanese Yellow Popcorn", "White Selection", "Dakota Black", "Cutie Pops" and "Miniature Rainbow Popcorn". Unfortunately my popcorn patch was invaded by a bunch of stray sheep, but I did manage to get some cobs of "Tom Thumb", "White Selection" and "Dakota Black". I had bought "White Selection" from Runåbergs and with plants around 160 cm high it is larger than the miniature variety "Tom Thumb" and gives a decent harvest. "Dakota Black", which I bought from USA, is almost exactly like "White Selection", except for the colour of the seeds. Same early maturity, same form of cobs and seeds, same size of plants.

In Skarpnäck I grew sweet corn, flour corn and dent corn. I had the rather early varieties "Ashworth" and "Double Standard" of sweet corn, which I had bought from Runåbergs, and "Blue Jade", which I had bought from the Dutch seed company Vreeken's Zaden. Of dent corn I grew "Oaxacan Green Dent", which I already had the year before and also "Earth Tones Dent", which also has beautiful colours and also matures so early that it can be grown in southern Sweden.

In 2012 I had built an extra fence around my popcorn plot to keep the sheep out and grew the same popcorn varieties as the year before. Only "Tom Thumb", "White Selection" and "Dakota Black" gave mature cobs. During the following years (with some year's break now and then) I continued with the same popcorn varieties. I also got some crosses, which was one of my goals. "Tom Thumb", "White Selection" and "Dakota Black" were the base of my crossed popcorn material, with some crossing from "Miniature Rainbow Popcorn", "Cutie Pops" and "Mini Japanese Yellow Popcorn".

Colourful popcorn
Colourful popcorn from 2020

In 2020 I decided to make a serious attempt to breed a good popcorn variety for Sweden, and I sowed saved and crossed seeds from my previous harvests to get a broad genetic base (maize seeds can stay viable for 10 years or more). Most of the plants and cobs I harvested in 2020 lived up to my goals, but there are still many years of breeding and selection to get a good variety.

Knee high popcorn plants
Knee high popcorn plants 13 June 2020


Maize / Corn

15 Apr 2021

I've been interested in growing food plants for a long time. My interest in maize was kindled when I was in America many years ago and saw some "Indian corn", i.e. multicoloured ornamental corn.

I am breeding an early and colourful popcorn variety for the Swedish climate. I will write more about this later.

Colourful Popcorn
Colourful popcorn from 2020

I also grow short season flint corn. Come back later for more about this.

Maize Plant
Maize Plant. Illustration: Alice Norbeck Marino