Corn Isn't As Hard As You May Have Heard
Corn is one of the crops that can get a bad wrap as being too hard for beginner gardeners. I have never understood this. There are certain steps to follow, like everything else, and if you follow them, you get corn!
There are several varieties of sweet corn, which is what most of us grow for fresh eating. Super sweet, sweet, standard…you have to decide what your tastes are and what you are going for. But regardless, they all require these steps.
1. Don’t transplant! Once your risk of frost is gone, direct sow seeds 1″ deep and about 8″ apart in your garden. While you CAN transplant corn, the roots do not like it and you will have some slow growing corn. I have tried it several times and several ways and have found the best way to get strong plants is to just stick the seeds in the ground!
2. Plant Enough! You need enough corn to pollinate itself well. Corn is wind-pollinated so you need to make sure that you have enough plants, close enough to pollinate each other well. When you are planting, choose to plant in blocks as opposed to long rows. If you are planting long rows, plant 5 or 6 rows so you are, essentially, making blocks along your path.
3. Full Sun! Corn needs sun and lots of it! Make sure you pick an area with at least 7 hours of sun each day!
4. Water Often! Don’t make the corn stand in puddles, but keep that soil moist. Corn takes a lot of water to grow big, tall stalks! Check soil moisture often and maybe use drip irrigation if your garden is small enough. Also, add mulch after plants are about 6″ to help maintain moisture.
5. Fertilize Often! Corn is a BIG feeder and will need plenty of fertilizer to grow well. Use an organic water-soluble fertilizer regularly.
6. Watch For Pests! This step should be a no-brainer! Corn has some unique pests that you need to watch for and eliminate early. Stay on top of this!
7. Harvest Day! Knowing when to harvest can be tricky. You want to wait until your silks are brown and drying up. That is typically when corn is ready to be pulled.
Popcorn’s Extra Step
If you are growing popcorn, the steps are the same until harvest day! You want to wait to harvest your popcorn until the stalks are drying up and the ears are starting to fall away from the stalks. Even then, they are not ready to throw in the air popper! Once you pull the popcorn you need to remove the husks and silks and find a cool dry place for them to finish drying. Cool as in normal indoor temps. You don’t have to put them in the fridge!
I usually leave popcorn on the ear drying inside for another 4 weeks before I shuck it off the cob.