Most corn stalks reach seven or eight feet tall. In Wyman Dobson’s Renton garden, the metal rods that hold up his corn are eight feet. At 14 feet, his corn stalks are nearly twice that height. Each cob splits into three big pieces for corn on the cob.
Dobson’s secret? A friend’s concoction called T fertilizer. Or maybe it’s tea fertilizer. Dobson doesn’t know. He also used tall corn seed purchased at the Puyallup Fair. But Dobson doesn’t think seeds are part of the secret.
“I’ve had tall corn before with just the regular seeds — about as high as this,” Dobson says on a recent day in his garden. “And that year I had sunflowers the same height.”
He calls his garden “sort of a showpiece.” Officially, it’s Papa’s Garden, as indicated by a large engraved rock planted in the soil. The garden fronts Riverside Drive North, facing the Cedar River.
The garden is in back of the large house Dobson’s parents built in 1936. That’s the same year Dobson moved in. He has lived in the house ever since, except for when he lived just two houses down. He traded houses with his mom in 1975. So at 74, and with a law practice his father established in 1931, Dobson is a Renton fixture. So is his garden.
Walkers on the Cedar River Trail often stop to admire Dobson’s corn.
“A man said he used to live in Iowa, and he never saw corn that tall — and Iowa is known for corn,” Dobson recounts.
While Corn is the star of Dobson’s garden, it’s not the only attraction.
“I had good-sized tomatoes and good-sized carrots,” he says, yanking a leafy green stem out of one of his planters. A bright orange carrot some four inches wide emerges.
“I had a beet about this big one year,” Dobson adds, holding his hands apart to show the size of a large potato.
He’s also had Puyallup-Fair caliber zucchetta. A picture shows a pair of the spindly yellow gourds reaching Dobson’s shoulders. While impressively large, the zucchetta didn’t win any prizes at the Puyallup Fair. Judges didn’t know how to classify the vegetable.
In addition to corn, tomatoes, beets and carrots, Dobson had delicata squash and asparagus this year. He planted pumpkins, but they didn’t turn out. The vegetables are usually intermixed with sunflowers. This year Dobson chose marigolds.
“My wife would like to make it all flowers,” Dobson says.
Vicki doesn’t do any of her husband’s planting. But the garden still creates work for her.
“I love to look at his garden, but it’s up to me to cook and freeze what he plants,” Vicki says. “Come September I’m very busy.”
What does she make with all those veggies?
“A lot of sautéing, spaghetti. Anything imaginable,” she says.
Leftover vegetables go to family and friends and the Salvation Army Renton Rotary Food Bank.
Dobson planted his garden’s first seeds some 20 years ago. At that time he says the garden was just a “rustic field.”
Two women scarecrows guard Dobson’s garden. But he admits the straw ladies are mostly for looks. He has more problems from dogs and squirrels than crows. A short wire fence protects the garden from the dogs. And the squirrels haven’t been a problem this year.
Dobson adds a new crop or accessory each year. One year it was the fountain. This year it was the raised planters. He’s not sure what he’ll add next spring — other than corn. He’s drying out a couple of the giant cobs for seeds. He’s never tried that planting method, but he hopes next year will bring more giant corn.