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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Gonzales

Growing & Harvesting Corn

Corn isn't an easy vegetable to grow. It is actually quite tedious! However, the fresh sweet corn that is organically grown has way better flavor and you know what went into growing it. Once you go to homegrown, fresh sweet corn, you'll never want to go back to store-bought corn!

Corn is a warm-season crop that requires soil that is nutrient-rich, a regular feeding and watering schedule, and lots of space. Be prepared for birds, worms, and raccoons to eat a good chunk of your corn and you can expect about two ears of corn per stalk at best. But despite the hard work and tedious labor, the reward of mouthwatering, fresh sweet corn is worth it!

Courtesy of Wix Media

Growing Corn

The first thing you need to know about growing corn is that its source of pollination is the wind. This means that you need to plant it in clusters of four to six plants or in blocks of at least four feet wide. This allows the pollen from one plant to transfer from the wind to the other plants. Despite what you see at the corn mazes during the fall, you don't want to plant your corn in single rows. At least not the corn that you are harvesting.

Your soil should be warm when planting, between 55-60°F. Be sure to plant your seeds 1 inch deep and 4 inches apart. Corn has deep roots so you will need to prepare your soil deeply when starting the prep work for planting and be sure to mulch to keep the plants moist. After a few weeks, you will then thin to 8 inches, then a couple of weeks later 12 inches. Be sure to use scissors rather than pulling. This will minimize the root damage and give your crop a better chance of a rich harvest.

Growing Tip: If you want to get a jump start on growing your corn and avoid some bird and insect damage, plant your seeds in containers and transplant the corn seedlings when they are about four to six inches tall.

Corn is actually a type of grass, which means its soil needs nitrogen. To ensure that you have a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for your corn you can either follow a planting of peas, add green manure to your soil, or add an organic fertilizer rich in nitrogen. As your corn grows, the maintenance is going to be constant and ongoing to ensure that your corn has the proper nutrients to grow. Plan to side-dress your crop with compost and organic fertilizer or you can spray your crop with fish emulsion when the plants reach a knee-high level and then again when the ears start to form. If the soil gets too dry, kernels will fail to form.

For those gardens that receive a lot of wind, be sure to stabilize your crops. You can do this by using stakes and string. You want to make sure that you stabilize the tall and top-heavy corn stalks. Plant the stakes on the outside of the cluster and use the string to create a perimeter to stabilize the cluster. However, if some of your stalks do get blown over, make sure to upright them and water them well. The stocks can recover quickly if treated right quickly.

If you're looking for ways to minimize the damage from birds, you can cover your crop with row covers or bird netting. To minimize the damage from raccoons, create a spray mixture of hot pepper and garlic and spray the plants. This won't hurt the plants but will help make your crop not so tasty to the raccoons. Or you can let loose your four-legged child to deter the raccoons as well!

If you're looking for ways to minimize the damage from earthworms, be sure to spray the silks at the top of the corn ears with Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis) or mineral oil. Earthworms do most of their damage at the top of the ear. You will see eggs that are laid by a light brown moth. The Bt or mineral oil will kill the worms and deter the moths.

Courtesy of Wix Media

Harvesting Your Corn

Once the tassels begin to turn brown, check your ears to make sure they feel plump (not rigid). If this is the case, pull back the shuck and pierce a kernel with something sharp. If the juice is milky, then your corn is ready for harvesting.

Harvesting Tip: While you are harvesting your corn, have water boiling and ready to go after you are done harvesting. The sugars turn to startch quickly after the corn is harvested. If you are not eating the corn right away, be sure to freeze what you are not eating.

Corn Varieties

Sweet Corn Varieties: Ambrosia, Kandy Korn, Silver Queen, Early Sunglow, and Golden Bantam.

When to Plant & Harvest by Zone

Zone 6 & 7 - Plant during the middle of March through the end of May, as well as the beginning of July through the beginning of August. You will have two harvesting seasons in the middle of May through the end of June and then again at the beginning of September through the middle of October.

Zone 8 & 9 - Plant during the beginning of February through the end of April, as well as the end of August through the end of October. You will have two harvesting seasons starting at the beginning of April through the end of June, as well as the end of October through the end of December.

Zone 10 - Plant during the beginning of February through the middle of March, as well as the end of September through the beginning of October. You will have two harvesting seasons starting at the beginning of April through the beginning of July, as well as the end of November through the end of December.

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