Growing corn in a garden whether it be a backyard garden or a larger garden plot is relatively simple and easy. The first thing you need to do is decide on what type of corn you want to grow. Most garden growers are interested in either sweet corn or popcorn, and the preparation for either is about the same. There are different varieties of each corn, so you must decide what you want. You can have sugary sweet corn, sugar enchaced sweet corn or supersweet sweet corn.
The original sweet corn was so named because the kernels had a sweet flavor when ripe. However, that sweetness began to fade after about 24 hours. With sweet corn, you had to pick it and get it into the pot within a day for peak flavor. The sugary sweet and super sweet varieties have flavor that will last longer after being picked.
Once you decide on what corn you want to plant, check with local experts to see if that variety will be good for the climate of the area. Like any other vegetable, corn does not like it really cold. So make sure there is no more frost predicted before you get it in the ground. When corn first comes up it looks like a blade of grass. At this stage it is tender and susceptible to frostbite. If you are not growing supersweet corn, you can plant when the air temperature is about 70 – 85 degrees. Supersweet likes it a little warmer, about 77 – 95 degrees. These temperatures are optimum for the best pollination.
The garden soil for corn should be heavy in nitrogen. Corn likes to suck up the nutrients from the soil. Make sure you work it up good with a tiller, and make sure there are no weeds to choke out the young corn blades. Consider your garden space and decide if you want to plant in raised beds, rows, or hills. If the soil is poor, you might want to consider the raised bed as it will be easier to work. If you have enough space, and if the soil is good, then rows could be an option. Plant your rows about two and a half to three feet apart, and make them as long as your garden will allow. Try and place at least four rows in your garden for the best germination. Plant your seeds about three inches apart, and about one inch deep.
Perhaps an even better method of planting is called block planting. Since corn is pollinated by wind, planting in small blocks will allow the male corn tassels to actually touch other stalk’s female silks for direct pollination. This is also a good method if space in your garden is small. Plan on getting about two to three ears per stalk in about 90 days from planting. During this 90 day growing period, keep the plants well watered, keep them free of insects and disease, and keep out weeds that will rob your corn of the food it needs for the best growth. Once your plants reach about eight iinches in height, hit them again with a nitrogen fertrilizer, and then one more time when they start to tassel out.
As you get close to harvest time, look for the wide, deep green colored leaves on your stalks, and begin checking the ears. You can do this by feel. The ears should be swelled out and firm, but not hard. They should be round on the end and not pointed. When this all occurs, you can make one final test. Select an ear and peel back the husk to expose a kernel. Pinch that kernel open with a fingernail; if a white, milky liquid spurts out, then it’s ready to be picked.