Corn needs its space to grow properly

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Q: What do you think of cutting the suckers (tillers) off to open up the area between the plants and the rows? The corn is 8 inches on center and 2 feet between rows. The total area is 16 by 20 feet so it wouldn't take long. They are 2-3 feet tall.

A: I think your corn is too close together and this may be why you want to cut off the tillers. Sweet corn should be planted 12 inches apart in the row, with 3 feet between the rows. Most people plant corn too close together, at the wrong time of the year and don't give it enough nitrogen fertilizer to develop well.

Corn can be planted in the spring as well as late summer. Late summer planting can begin around mid-to-late July and continue until about the middle of September. Corn develops more quickly when it is hotter than when is cooler. So, for instance, the number of days to maturity on a corn package may be off considerably when planting in late summer.

Fertilize corn with a high-nitrogen fertilizer as soon as it emerges from the soil and then monthly thereafter. As the plants get larger, they will require more water so increase the amount of water accordingly.

Q: Attached is a photo of fruit damage to my nectarines. I have my 5-foot tree completely netted to prevent birds from getting to the fruit. However, damage still occurs. Some of the damaged fruits are close to the center of the plant, away from the netting, which sort of rules out birds. Any idea of what else could be doing the damage and how can I prevent it from occurring in the future?

A: I am thinking this may be ground squirrels. They will attack grapes, almonds and other fresh fruit as well as vegetables.

In fact, two seasons ago ground squirrels nearly wiped out the almond crop at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Orchard in North Las Vegas. We thought we had almond robbers.

Currently we use bait stations to keep the squirrels under control. The poison bait we use is classified as suitable for organic production as long as it is contained in a bait station.

Bob Morris is an associate professor with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Direct gardening questions to the master gardener hot line at 257-5555 or contact Morris by e-mail at