This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol4", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
The Maize plant (Zea Mays) is an American annual with many varieties. In the United States something like 3,000,000,000 bus. of "corn" are grown annually on about 70,000,000 ac. of land lying mostly in the Mississippi valley, thus giving roughly an average of about 43 bus. to the acre. Of late years the Maize plant has attracted the attention of both farmers and market gardeners, the former looking upon it as a valuable green fodder crop for their cattle, the latter as a vegetable worthy of some attention. The heads or "cobs", if gathered before the "seeds" become hard, and boiled for half an hour or so, make a palatable vegetable eaten with salt and butter, and are considered quite equal to the best Peas in flavour. For edible purposes some varieties are better than others, some of the best for cultivation in the British Islands being the Early Sweet Cory, Early Sweet Minnesota, Early Kendall's Giant, Extra Early Premo, Golden Bantam, Peep o Day, Extra Early Tom Thumb, and others. For cattle, the variety called Southern Horse Tooth is recommended.
To make sure of a good crop of Indian Corn "cobs" in the more favoured parts of the British Isles it is better to sow the seeds singly in small pots or in shallow boxes in April, in a warm greenhouse or on a hotbed, in a temperature of 60° to 65° F. The seedlings should have plenty of light, and, if hardened off by the end of May, will be fit to transplant to the open ground, about 2 ft. apart every way. The soil in which they are placed should be deeply tilled and well manured in advance, and the hoe should be used frequently, especially in hot dry seasons.
Farmers sow Indian Corn like wheat in drills about 6 in. apart, and use from 2 to 3 bushels of seed to the acre.
The Maize plant (fig. 476) is monoecious, like the Cucumber, Marrow, Melon, and Begonia, that is to say, its male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers are quite distinct from each other, although borne on the same plant. The male flowers are borne in a panicle at the top of the stems as shown in the illustration, while the female ones issue in the form of hardened spikes or "cobs" from the axils of the gracefully arching leaves lower down the knotted stems, each cob being furnished with a feathery plume or tassel. A female spike or cob will have from 500 to 1000 ovaries, each of which may develop into a grain of "corn" in due course. In Britain the plants attain a height of 3 to 5 ft. or more, being much shorter than in the United States.
Fig. 476.-Indian Corn (Zea Mays).