Garden Dirt: Growing Amazing Mazes

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by Ray Greenstreet

Greenstreet Gardens’ 2015 maze celebrates pollinators. You’ll be busy as a bee trying to find your way out of it. Photo provided by Greenstreet Gardens.
Greenstreet Gardens’ 2015 maze celebrates pollinators. You’ll be busy as a bee trying to find your way out of it. Photo provided by Greenstreet Gardens.

Pumpkin patches, hayrides, apple butter and corn mazes scream “fall on the farm.”  As agritourism continues to grow in popularity, so do corn mazes.  Our six-acre corn maze is the centerpiece of our wildly popular Fall Festival, and an average of 15,000 visitors per year– young and old alike – have tried their luck at finding their way out.  On the weekends, our farm is a great family fun filled place to be!  During the week, our farm and maze are used for school educational purposes via field trips.  Many schools from far and wide visit not only to have fun but to learn about agriculture.  Greenstreet Growers feels very strongly that it’s important to educate the next generation about the importance of agriculture.  The most-often asked questions are: Has anyone ever really gotten lost in the maze? How do you make it grow like this? So far everyone has made it out!  And this is how we grow it:

  • Not just for kids! If you give up, wave the flag and you’ll be rescued. Photo provided by Greenstreet Gardens.
    Not just for kids! If you give up, wave the flag and you’ll be rescued. Photo provided by Greenstreet Gardens.

    Growing an incredible maze starts when there is still snow on the ground, in mid-winter when we decide on what design we want in the maze. We brainstorm as a company on pop culture, popular movies or trendy themes.  The maze sets the theme for that year’s Fall Festival.

  • We use a no-till method of planting our corn, to minimize erosion. Our field is cross planted at 22,000 kernels in each direction!  The area is entirely planted in rows, not in a maze pattern.  That comes later.
  • Yes, we plant real corn, but it’s not the sweet corn you buy at farm stands or your grocery stores. It’s field or feed corn, which is used for other applications like animal feed.  We don’t grow our corn for anything more than the maze.  At the end of our season, we offer any remaining corn to a neighboring farmer to come in and harvest.
  • We begin irrigating the corn field immediately unless it rains every day. We use drip irrigation tape & water slowly to maximize the efficiency and decrease excess evaporation.
  • When the corn grows to about four inches high, it is time to cut the maze. At this point, the young corn is still soft to the touch.  If we wait until the corn was older, the corn couldn’t be cut flush with the ground.
  • All those intricate circles and designs are not cut “free-hand.” The Maize Company cuts our maze using backpack GPS technology, and it takes 3 or 4 people about 10 hours to complete.
  • Once the maze design is cut, we continue to irrigate the field to encourage thick, sturdy and tall corn. The thicker and taller the better! A maze in a short, scrawny cornfield would be too easy to escape…

So I’ve told you how we grow our maze, but I’ll leave it to you to find your way out of it!