Drying decorative corn for fall arrangement

Mini pumpkins, decorative gourds, dry grasses, corn stalks, tansy and goldenrod create great autumn displays.

Decorative corn cobs dress up porch arrangements and seasonal baskets. The kernels can be a myriad of colours, including red, orange, burgundy and purple.

I like the variety called Painted Mountain because many of the cobs are multi-coloured. It is also a relatively short season (85 days) variety.

Decorative corn requires a long growing season and a hot summer to mature before fall frost strikes.

I do admire the mini-cob varieties, but the shortest growing season variety that I have found is 90 days, too long for my Zone 2 garden. I have to be content with the regular sized cobs of such varieties as Painted Mountain.

I plant the seeds in the garden about the third week in May after the soil has warmed up. I like to plant in several short, side-by-side rows to facilitate pollination and keep it as far away from my other corn as possible.

Corn loves heat and water, as well as a rich, deeply dug soil.

It develops cobs about the same time as the main corn crop and usually by the end of the first week in September, the kernels in the cobs are hard to the touch.

Even though the husks might still be green, if the kernels are hard, I harvest the cobs before frost occurs. Package instructions say to leave the cobs on the plants until the husks are brown.

Harvesting the cobs so soon means that mould could be a problem so drying needs to occur quickly. I peel back the husks and remove the silk, leaving the husk attached at the base of each cob. I tie the cobs in bundles, three to a bundle, with a piece of twine wrapped around the ends of the husks.

I hang the bundles of cobs, cob-end down, on a sturdy line in the garage. I use a fan to blow air onto the cobs.

The moving air quickly dries the cobs and husks. The kernels might shrink if the cobs are harvested while the kernels are soft and immature. The drying process takes a couple of weeks and then the cobs are dry enough to use in displays.

The husks will have dried to a nice light tan colour.

I put some cobs in baskets on beds of raffia, combine others in baskets with mini-pumpkins and decorative gourds and add others to tall dried porch arrangements of corn stalks and dried grasses, tansy, dock and goldenrod.

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