Planting Guide - Corn Seeds
Planting Corn in Your Garden
A long, frost-free growing season is necessary to bring corn to maturity. Planting early, mid, and late-season varieties extend the summer harvest. Sweet corn such as Golden Beauty and Peaches and Cream are ready to harvest after just 70 days. Mid-season corn such as Jubilee, Golden Bantam and Golden X Bantam, Silver Queen all are harvested after 88-90 days. Popcorn, Blue Hopi and Strawberry Popcorn are late season varieties and are ready 100-110 after planting.
When & How to Start
Make sure the weather is warming up and your soil temperatures are at least 60 degrees--corn will not germinate if soil temperatures are too cold.
Plant in full sun in highly fertile, well drained soil with a 6.0 to 6.8 pH. Sweet corn will prefer rich soil with high nitrogen and plenty of moisture. Soil should be amended prior to planting with aged manure or rich compost. The ideal spot to plant corn would be in the same plot that yielded a healthy bean or pea crop the year before--these crops contribute the needed nitrogen to the soil.
Corn is wind pollinated and, especially for smaller plots, should be planted in blocks, rather than long rows. Keep in mind that each silk is connected to each kernel, and need to be pollinated by the tassels growing above. 97% of the silks are pollinated by another corn’s tassels. This should illustrate how important it is to plant your corn in blocks so that the tall tassels can drop the pollen on the silks of the corn growing below.
Growing Guide for Corn
Seeds should be planted 2-3 per hole, about 1-2 inches deep. Plantings should be approximately 12-15 inches apart, and rows should be 30-36 inches apart. If more than one seed sprouts from a single planting, they should be thinned to the strongest sprout.
Shorter varieties can be planted closer, and sweeter varieties should be planted shallower. Water the plot well after planting and keep consistently moist through germination and harvest. As weather becomes warmer, increase watering. Most varieties of corn will produce suckers at the base of the stalk, but removing them has shown no benefit to the plant’s production, and can actually have a negative impact on yield.
Rule of thumb, the sweeter the corn, the more water it will need, and the warmer the soil temperatures must be.
Corn should be fertilized with a nitrogen rich food when plants are about 12-18 inches high and weeds should be controlled so they do not steal moisture and nutrients from your crop. Sufficient moisture is crucial for plants to develop and produce properly.
Corn will produce a fairly shallow root system, so care should be taken not to damage it when removing weeds. Weed control in corn plots is best achieved by a thick mulching, which also helps to maintain moisture. Another way to ward off weeds and retain moisture is to plant The Three Sisters.
Possible Problems with Growing Corn
Corn requires warm temperatures, rich soil, and even regular waterings. If corn does not emerge, the soil may be cold or damp. Plant later when the soil is warmer and add aged compost and organic matter to the soil to make it more well-draining.
Crows, birds, rabbits, cutworms, all love to eat young corn seedlings. Cover seedlings with bird block or row covers until they are established.
Earwigs, beetles, corn rootworm all feed on silks which prevents pollination or causes poor kernel development. Check ears daily and handpick and destroy. Spray plants with hot pepper and garlic repellant and keep your garden free of weeds and debris where these pests thrive.
The silks coming out the top of the corn are each attached to a kernel inside. If the pollen from the tassels above do not reach the silks below then you will see incomplete and sporadic kernel development. Plant at least 3-4 rows, 8 feet long each. Pollen sheds 2 to 3 weeks prior to harvest so make sure soil is sufficiently moist during this time.
Ears will be ready to harvest approximately 3 weeks after silk is visible and has become brown. Another way to check, pull down the leaves a bit to reveal the tip of the cob. The corn kernels should be firm and milky when cut open. To harvest, bend and pull ear downward from stalk with a twisting motion. Consume or freeze immediately for best quality.
Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the fact that corn should be eaten as soon as picked. Husking immediately after picking is an aid in preventing deterioration. Corn may be picked early in the morning, or late in the afternoon, husked and kept cool and shaded. In this way, it will keep in good condition for twelve hours, but is at its best if picked immediately before using..
Preparing Corn for Next Season
Corn has a relatively small root structure, and the entire stalk can be pulled out of the soil with ease. Remove and clear the area in preparation for your fall garden.