Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 5, Issue 5
   October 2010
   Corn Mazes: A Fun Autumn Excursion

Saunders Farm hedge mazes
Hedge mazes at Saunders Farm in Munster, Ontario

  Saunders Farm Olympic-themed corn maze
  An aerial view of the Olympic-themed corn maze at Saunders Farm
Well before planting begins, the maze design is carefully plotted. Its artistry is perhaps best appreciated from the air, but on the ground is where the real fun happens. Saunders Farm in Munster, Ontario, boasts North America's largest collection of hedge mazes. The farm is home to permanent mazes made of spruce and cedar hedges, grapevines, and of course, a new corn maze every autumn. As with other farms, the folks who run Saunders usually pick a maze theme. Last year, it was Olympic athletes. This year, the crops are being rotated — essential for healthy soil — so pumpkins have been planted on the four-acre plot on which corn is usually planted. The corn has been moved to two smaller plots, each being an acre. "We are saving the big blast for our anniversary next year," says Mark Saunders, owner of the farm started by his parents 34 years ago.

Every farm has its own way of putting the maze together. For example, some farms in the United States use GPS technology to cut the maze. In general though, most work the way the folks at Saunders do — on a grid. One of the Saunders' neighbors, who is a farmer, plants the corn that will grow 8' to 10'. Once the stalks are tall enough to begin cutting the maze, a grid of strings is stretched across the cornfield. The design is not cut using a plough because that would cause furrows in the pathways; as the stalks grow, the path would become too bumpy and dangerous to walk on. Instead, specific cornstalks are pulled by hand or by using a hoe to create a 3' wide path. "Stalks are planted 12" to 18" apart," explains Mr. Saunders. "Everything is color-coded, and we make sure to just take out what's in the pathways."

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