Spring Garden Tips

Corn

Botanical Name

Zea mays

Hardiness

Tender annual

Height

4 to 6 feet

Width

1 to 1.5 feet

Light

Full sun

Soil

Moist, well-drained, rich in organic matter

Planting and Care

Corn requires warm soils temperatures between 65 F and 85 F to germinate. Supersweet varieties also need more soil moisture for germination.

Once all danger of frost has passed, sow seed 1/2 inch deep in cooler soils and 1 to 11/2 inch deep in warmer soil. Space kernels 4 to 6 inches apart in rows spaced 30 to 36 inches apart. Thin plants to 8 to 12 inch spacing when plants reach 3 to 4 inches in height.

Plant in blocks at least 4 rows wide. Numerous short rows in a planting are better than fewer, long rows. This is vital to discourage cross pollination between varieties which could result in a poor quality harvest. Arrange or isolate varieties in the garden to lessen the possibility of cross pollination.

Plan for a continual harvest by first planting an early variety, follow that 2 weeks later with a sowing of an early variety and blocks of mid and late season varieties. Planting can be done as late as the first week of July.

Supersweet varieties should be isolated from other varieties maturing at the same time to ensure the best quality crop.

Corn can be interplanted with early-harvested cool-season crops to save space in the garden.

Corn is shallow rooted, so be careful not to disturb the roots with cultivation. Mulch soil around plants to suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.

A side dressing of a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer may be necessary during the growing season for this heavy feeder.

Problems

Rust, corn rootworm, seedcorn maggots, smut, European corn borers

Varieties to Consider

Dazzle - bicolor, supersweet variety, good disease resistance

Quickie - 64 days to harvest

Iochief - midseason

How Sweet It Is - All-America Selections Winner

Honey 'N Pearl - All-America Selections Winner

Harvesting

Each stock should produce one ear, and under optimal conditions two.

Pick ears when the kernels are fully formed, but not fully matured. This is known as the 'milky' stage. This occurs about 20 days following the emergence of the silky strands. The browning and drying of these strands is a good indication that the corn is ready for harvest. Monitor the progress and check kernel development often to prevent a harvest that is too late, over mature kernels are starchy and doughy.

Snap the ears off by hand by twisting and pulling. Because the sugar in sweet corn rapidly becomes starch it is best to refrigerate, process or even best eat your harvest as soon as possible.

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