To fill in any gaps in our direct seeded corn rows, we started corn plants in the greenhouse for transplanting. We sowed seed thickly – maybe a 3 inch spacing – directly into the soil in the greenhouse! No black plastic trays, no fuss. A little bit of extra time to dig them out with a handy spatula. We carefully place them roots down into a five-gallon bucket with an inch or so of water in the bottom for transport to the field.
We love using less plastic – those trays do break down over time. I saw people in France using this method with a variety of vegetables. With lettuce and cabbage, they simply sowed a tightly spaced “nursery bed” outdoors and covered it with a portable wooden cold frame. I don’t think I’d try this with anything with tender roots, like melons, cucumbers, or beans, although corn itself is often grouped with these as being harder to transplant.
These plants are the variety Floriani Red Flint, which is not a sweet corn for eating off the cob but is grown instead for drying and grinding into cornmeal. We’re growing it to sell for seed, but we like growing it because we love eating it. We grind it with our hand cranked Corona grain mill. We like eating it as grits for breakfast, but the variety was bred in Italy for making polenta. The kernels are deep red, but it’s actually only the husk that’s red: inside the kernels are yellow, so after grinding all that’s left of the color is flecks.