Growing Glass Gem Corn

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My favorite ear of 'Glass Gem' corn is purple and gold. I just can't get over how beautiful it all is.

My favorite ear of ‘Glass Gem’ corn is purple and gold. I just can’t get over how beautiful it all is.

‘Glass Gem’ is one unique corn, and I’m so glad I grew it this year. Carol from May Dreams Gardens gave me some kernels last spring from the ‘Glass Gem’ corn she grew in her garden in Indiana. Before this summer, I always grew sweet corn, but never flint corn that can be made into cornmeal, or popped as popcorn. ‘Glass Gem’ is a heritage variety that originated in Oklahoma and is easy to grow. It is an open-pollinated seed selected over many years from various heirloom corns. It is not a hybrid. It is not sweet corn. It is the most beautiful plant I’ve ever grown.

Several different ears of 'Glass Gem' corn.

Several different ears of ‘Glass Gem’ corn.

In spite of torrential rain and a cooler-than-usual spring in my garden, my ‘Glass Gem’ corn sprouted and grew. Because it comes from heirloom varieties and is open-pollinated, don’t expect the ears to be uniform in color, size and shape. This is part of their charm. I ended with all different colors and ears in all sizes. The pollination was better on some ears than others, but all of it is beautiful. I will grow it again next spring because I am dazzled. Shucking this corn was like opening presents on Christmas morning with each ear a special and beautiful surprise.

All the variations of 'Glass Gem' corn I grew in my garden this year. Dee Nash 20-30 Something Garden Guide.

All the variations of ‘Glass Gem’ corn I grew in my garden this year.

‘Glass Gem’ corn is so popular it has its own Facebook page where people post photos of their corn. Not too many vegetables have their own page. Gardeners are taking this corn and then selecting their favorite kernels to refine it further to suit their needs. Some want more compact plants while others want certain color ranges. I just love their creativity. This is gardening’s great legacy, the ability to control one’s food supply, at least in part.

'Glass Gem' corn

‘Glass Gem’ corn

I’m drying the ears I grew, and our family will pop some of the kernels as popcorn. I’ll also save some for next spring. If you want to buy some kernels for yourself, try Native Seeds Search. Here is more information about the history of this amazing corn. Oh yes, I’ll grow this again and again because it was so much fun. Grow some with your kids next summer, and introduce them to the wild variety and pleasure that only gardening can bring.


Red and green lettuce mix from Renee's Seeds.

Beautiful vegetable gardens

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The potager, garage border and greenhouse create a garden that makes beautiful music in all seasons.

The potager, garage border and greenhouse create a garden that makes beautiful music in all seasons.

In my opinion, vegetable gardens are as beautiful as gardens planted purely for ornamental purposes. However, before Rosalind Creasy wrote about edible landscaping, I don’t think people thought vegetables could be part of an ornamental landscape. By growing vegetables that are beautiful in and of themselves and mixing them with fruit trees and flowers, you can create your own edible paradise.

Cabbages growing in my potager in early spring with the morning sun shining upon their leaves.

Cabbages growing in my potager in early spring with the morning sun shining upon their leaves.

Early spring vegetables especially lend themselves to landscaping. Because they are often leafy greens, they don’t need to grow into much larger plants that set fruit like a tomato, for instance. However, tomatoes can also be worked into an edible landscape too.

Cherry tomatoes are beautiful until the end of summer. Plant them after your last frost date.

Cherry tomatoes are beautiful until the end of summer. Plant them after your last frost date.

It’s all about how you place them, along with what kind of structure you use to support their limbs and get their fruit up off of the ground. I used a red tomato cage because it pulls the color from the cherry tomato. Not only is a structure like this beautiful, but also, expedient because leaves and fruit can be damaged by insects and fungi if they aren’t lifted upward. Still, a tomato cage will only work with determinate tomatoes. Most heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate and require a much stronger structure. Squash suffer from the same problems with its fruit as the might tomato. One way to elevate the conversation is to grow plants in containers like this squash I snapped a photo of at Sunset Magazine’s headquarters in California. Just look at that galvanized metal container. It’s beautiful in its own right.

Squash in a container at Sunset Magazine headquarters

Squash in a container at Sunset Magazine headquarters.

By planting ornamental vegetables in key places, you can have a beautiful garden no matter the season. Start in spring with red and green lettuces. To do the alternating pattern I made below, you can sprout lettuces indoors and transplant them, or sow seeds outside and then move them about once they have at least two true leaves. I moved these when they were quite small so I watched them carefully and gave them plenty of water so they wouldn’t go into transplant shock. Also, using manure tea that you make–I show you how in The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff–or, by purchasing some from Authentic Haven Brand, you give these little transplants a boost of nitrogen and micronutrients. I suggest manure or compost tea for any vegetables transplanted into the garden. You can also use it to boost seeds once they sprout out of the ground.

Red and green lettuce mix from Renee's Seeds.

Red and green lettuce mix from Renee’s Seeds.

When thinking of the ornamental edible garden, don’t forget flowers, both those that are edible like the nasturtiums below, but also those that aren’t. Just make sure neighbor kids and adults don’t browse the vegetable and flower food bar in your front yard until they ask you which plants can be eaten and those that will give them a tummy ache or worse.

Nasturtiums are edible flowers for the vegetable garden and beyond.

Nasturtiums are edible flowers for the vegetable garden and beyond.

So, this spring, when you plan your vegetable garden, draw a simple design first. You can find several in my book, but you can also draw your own. Then, fill your vegetable garden with beautiful and colorful vegetables, great structure for vining and tall plants and edible and inedible flowers. When choosing flowers, don’t forget pollinators either. They will help your squash and other plants bloom and grow. Pollinators also need our help desperately, and by picking flower seeds of simple flowers, you can create a garden that is both beautiful and healthy for you and the planet.