My memories of May Day stem from my pagan youth in the public school system of Eugene, Oregon. We decorated construction paper to staple into a colorful cone for the wildflowers we picked. Teachers herded 8 year olds into a circle around a makeshift, maypole, where we grabbed hold of the thick ribbons attached at the top, and learned how to bob and weave amongst each other, wrapping the pole in a beautiful braid of spring colors.
I had no idea why I was doing this dance. And now, I’m more aware of the first of May as a day of protest for workers’ rights around the world. But while I’m raising my voice on behalf of justice, I’d also like to regain a bit of the celebration of spring. According to Brittanica.com, the celebration of the first of May probably originated in ancient agricultural rituals – where people gathered flowers and branches, wove floral garlands, and danced around the maypole. It may have been a ritual to ensure the good growth of crops, and as the site reminds us, when our crops and food flourishes, we all flourish.
Though May Day is traditionally the celebration of spring, in southern California, it’s already looking a lot like summer. The days are getting longer, the sun is warming up the earth, and I’m dreaming of flip-flops, sundresses, and backyard barbeques. Visiting a friend’s front patio this weekend, I saw the beginning of her corn crop, planted in a wooden container, and wondered if I could make space in my courtyard apartment to grow some of my own.
Since corn grows up, not out, you don’t need a huge container, but, in order for it to pollinate properly, you do need to plant the seeds in at least three rows of three or more plants. And because it’s a tall crop, you can plant smaller plants next to your corn, a la the “three sisters” plan: corn, beans & squash, that, as legend has it, Native Americans grew together, ate together, and celebrated together.
SFGate.com tells us city-growers to choose a sweet corn that doesn’t grow as big, such as the “Precocious” or “Golden Bantam” variety, and to have patience before you plant, the soil should be about 70 degrees F. Plant the seeds two inches deep, 4 inches apart, with rows separated by 8 inches. According to SFGate, soil must remain moist but not wet at all times until the seeds sprout, which can take one to two weeks. Once the seeds sprout, thin the seedlings so the remaining plants are 6 to 8 inches apart in the row.
I’d love to bring freshly picked ears of corn to toss on the grill at my friend’s next BBQ. I’m just wondering if I could borrow this truck I saw parked in my neighborhood to do so? I can already see myself in it, wearing sundress & sandals, a bundle of home-grown corn in a City Farm satchel on the passenger seat: it fits perfectly with my urban farmer or vineyard owner dream / alternate reality! Read more on growing an edible garden here.