How To Grow Sweet Corn
Corn has become such a stable in our diets that we hardly think about where it comes from and the amount of work that goes into growing the perfect piece.
Follow these rules to learn how to grow corn and bring the sweet goodness into your own garden.
When and Where to Plant Corn
Corn is very prone to frost damage, so your first step is to set a date for planting after the last chance of frost.
- A large square or rectangular area, at least 6’ x 6’ (which is about 3 rows of 3 plants). – Corn must pollinate with other corn plants to grow edible ears, so they must be planted somewhat close together.
- An area that gets full sun, meaning at least 8 hours of sunlight per day. – Got an area picked out and ready to plant? For the easiest growing, use only the same variety of corn. Cross pollination of different corn varieties can result in tough and flavorless corn.
- Till the soil and plant two or three corn seeds next to each other, burying them 1 to 2 inches deep into the soil.
- Space the seeds out about 15 to 24 inches.
- Plant in blocks, not long rows, to aid in pollination.
- As the corn seedlings grow, remove the weakest plant by cutting it as close to the ground as possible.
Caring for Corn Plants
Once you have little corn plants happily growing, you’ll have to help them along to reach their full potential. Corn can withstand slightly dryer conditions more so than other vegetables, but don’t neglect them!
- An easy rule is to water corn thoroughly every 2 or 3 days. If the soil seems very dry, or the corn plant seems hard and brittle, give them a good soaking.
- Only water at the base of the corn. Watering from the top can disturb the delicate pollen.
- Like any vegetable, corn hates competing with weeds, so remove weeds on a regular basis.
The old saying, “Knee high by Fourth of July”, means if your corn is growing well, it should be 12 – 18 inches tall by early July.
- As the corn plant begins producing ears, add an extra day of watering to help those ears turn into delicious pieces of corn.
Hand Pollinating Corn
This is an advanced technique that can really help give your corn a boost.
Corn relies on the wind to pollinate with other plants. If you’re worried that Mother Nature hasn’t helped your corn in this area, you can give a helping hand by hand pollinating your corn plants.
- When the silky strings shoot out of the ears, you can collect their pollen.
- Wait for a point when there’s no breeze, and shake the tassels over a dry bucket to release the pollen.
- Go around and collect pollen from several corn plants.
- Transfer the pollen into a small paper bag and sprinkle the powdery pollen onto the silks of each ear in your corn patch.
- Repeat this once or twice over the next few days for best results.
If you don’t want to mess with this step, that’s fine – let those plants grow until it’s time to harvest.
How to Harvest Corn
Most corn plants produce two ears of corn per plant. The best sign to ensure fully ripe corn is to peel back the husk and pierce a few kernels with your finger. If a milky substance spills out, your corn is ready.
Harvest corn quickly and either cook it that day or freeze it. Unlike other vegetables, corn doesn’t age well. Corn that sits on the plant too long becomes very hard and nearly impossible to eat.