How to Grow Sweet Corn, Popcorn, Indian Corn
Sweet Corn is among the most popular of vegetables. People look forward all
year to fresh corn on the cob in late summer. Very little compares to the
fresh taste of corn picked from the garden, moments before it is cooked.
Corn loses it's flavor very rapidly. Once it is picked, the sugars immediately
begin to turn to starch.
The only trouble with growing sweet corn, is it requires a large amount of
space to grow. Most backyard gardeners grow tomatoes, because they can grow
as few as one plant, which takes up very little space. Even urban backyard
gardeners have enough space for a single tomato plant. Planting corn requires
a minimum of three rows (ideally four), of about four feet in length.
The space between rows needs to be three feet. This minimum space allows
adequate pollination for the ears. Corn is pollinated by pollen from it's
tassels (the tops of the plant). Compare this to tomatoes, which are self
pollinating (which is why you can grow a single plant).
Corn will usually produce one to two ears per plant. It is also a favorite
for fall decorations where the stalks can be used in a variety of outdoor
displays. As a result you get two uses out of your crop. If you are a farmer,
there is a third use. Livestock can be fed the stalks, after the fall decorations
Did You Know? The Greek Goddess of Corn is Demeter. She oversees grains
and fertility of the earth.
Varieties of Corn Plants:
Yellow- The most common and popular of varieties. There are a wide
range of types of seed within this category.
White - With white kernels, this author and many others consider white
corn to be among the best tasting corn you can find. Among this category,
Silver Queen corn is the most popular by far.
Bi-Color- This variety boasts both yellow and white kernels. Not only
does it taste good, it looks good too!
Popcorn- Kids and adults will enjoy the
thrill of growing their own popcorn, and popping it in the fall. The ears
need to thoroughly dry. Rub two dry ears together to remove the kernels from
the cob, or take the cob with kernels still attached, and pop it in the
microwave! How to Grow and Dry Popcorn
Corn- Few people today are familiar with Broom corn. This corn was
grown for the thin, strong stalks. They would be dried, then tied at the
end of a stick to make a broom.
Ornamental Indian Corn- This
is grown only for decorative purposes. It is dried and the ears are used
to decoration for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and other fall events. Common,
popular varieties include: Ornamental multi-color Indian Corn and, Blue Hopi.
Tall stalks- This corn is grown for it's tall stalk. It is used in
competition at fall festivals. A stalk from this variety can grow over twenty
Days to Maturity:
Ranges from 65 to 95 days depending on variety. Among the longest varieties
are "Silver Queen", one of the all time favorites, and certainly worth the
wait. While some of today's enhanced sugar varieties claim to have higher
sugar content and sweetness, Silver Queen remains the home gardener's favorite
"Queen of the Sweet Corns".
How to Grow Corn Plants:
Grow corn in full sun and a rich garden soil.
Plant seeds in rows, about 1/2 to 1 inch deep. Space four to six inches apart
in rows three feet apart. Some home gardeners will plant two seeds close
together then, thin out one of them if both grow. This assures maximum use
of limited garden space, with no gaps due to poor germination. Another method
is to space the seed closer together, then thin them. Water well after planting,
and again two to four days later if there has been no rain.
Seeds will sprout in about 10-14 days.
To assure proper pollination, plant four rows four feet long.
Tip: Some gardeners try to transplant corn seedlings to fill gaps
in the row. In general, corn does not transplant well. You can succeed however,
under the right conditions. First, transplant when the seedling is very small.
Second, transplant in cooler weather and near evening. Dig extra deep, to
extract as much of the plant's roots as possible. Seedlings send out a long,
deep tap root. Finally, water well and daily for about a week.
As the plant grows, it can be susceptible to high winds. Pile up garden soil
around the base of the plants, to help prevent damage.
Fertilize with a general purpose fertilizer every two to three weeks.
Water regularly in dry weather. Water deeply.
Keep plants well weeded in their early life. Place mulch between the rows
to keep weeds down.
Temperatures - Ideal germination temperature by vegetable
Ideal Soil pH -
Insects and Pests:
Corn Ear worms and silkworms are the most common pests. Insects are not often
a problem until the ears begin to form. Entry is through the silk. Sevin
dust is very effective when applied directly on the silk, or dusted in the
To control corn earworms, some people apply a couple drops of mineral oil
on the silk. Apply it after pollination. The mineral oil suffocates the earworms.
Deer are also be a problem if they exist in your area.
Occasionally ,birds will enjoy a meal on your corn. Blue jays are common feeders
in cornfields. Try putting up a scarecrow to keep them away. Scarecrows have
been in use for thousands of years. All
Diseases of Corn Plants:
Until the ear begins to form, corn usually experiences few disease problems.
Occasionally a fungus develops at the ear. It is a black-ish, purple colored
glob. It grows in rainy weather. If corn fungus is present, remove and destroy
the plant. Put it in the garbage and not in your compost pile where the fungus
can harbor and be transferred to other crops.
Did you Know? That ugly, black-ish, purplish fungus on your corn stalk
is edible. It is considered a delicacy to some. In Mexico, it is called
Plant Problems - Diagnosis,
causes and cures for many common plant problems.
Corn is at it's best when the kernels have just filled out. It is best to
pick the ears just before eating them. If you need to store it, harvest ears
in the morning when it is at it's peak sweetness. Do not shuck the ears,
until ready to cook.
Corn is ready when the silk has dried and turned a dark brown.
If you are inexperienced at picking corn in the field, select an ear that
looks ripe. Without taking it off the plant, pull the husk back, just enough
to expose the tip of the ear. If it is not ripe, close it back up and tie
a "twist tie" around it to seal out the bugs.
Pull ears down, while twisting, to break them off the plant.
It helps to hold the cornstalk with your free hand. This avoids breaking
the stalk of the plant.
On the Grill: On those hot summer days when it is too hot to boil
water indoors, try grilling corn. Just soak the ears, husk and all, in a
bucket of water for a couple of hours. Then, cook it on your grill, turning
regularly. When it's done, pull off the husk, eat and enjoy!
Corn on the Cob, Grilled
The plants like it hot. It is somewhat resistant to dry weather. It sends
it's roots deep, seeking moisture in the dry summer conditions. It will be
one of the last garden vegetables to wilt in the heat of the sun and drought
conditions. The plants do not like frost or freezes. Although they may survive
light or scattered frosts.
Thought for the Day: If Jimmy cracks corn, and no one cares, why is
there a song about him!?
Recipes: May we suggest:
More Gardening Information:
Sweet Corn - more information from Garden Hobbies