If you enjoy popcorn, it's easy to grown your own at home, if you have space outdoors with plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil. Children enjoy growing popcorn and getting to eat the fruits of their labors. Homemade popcorn also makes a unique gift, especially if presented still on the cob.
Prepare the Garden Space
Popcorn likes warm weather and needs a growing season of about 110 days for most varieties. Choose a planting spot that will receive six to eight hours of sunlight each day, and that's close to a water source to allow you to water the bed regularly. Like other varieties of corn, popcorn needs rich soil. Work composted manure into your garden bed and make sure the ground is free of rocks and roots. Cultivate the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches and rake smooth.
Plant popcorn seeds once the soil has warmed to at least 65 F. Cornell University recommends planting seeds 1 inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart, in rows 30 to 36 inches apart. Water well after planting. When the popcorn has sprouted and the young plants are 3 to 4 inches tall, thin the plants to 8 to 12 inches apart.
Water regularly to keep the soil moist an inch below the surface. Feed every two weeks with a general garden fertilizer and mulch around the plants to keep down weeds. Corn has shallow roots that spread out from the plant, so be careful cultivating weeds, as you could damage the corn roots.
Since popcorn must be dry before you pop it, it's best to leave the ears on the stalks to dry until just before the first frost. If predators are a problem or you need to pick ears that aren't dry, remove the ears when they're fully developed and the silks at the top of the ear have turned brown. Bend the ear down next to the stalk and twist to remove the ear. Peel back the husks and tie three to four ears together by the husks and hang in a dark, cool place to dry completely.
Once the corn is dry, remove it from the ears. Hold the ear of popcorn over a large bag or bowl and use your thumbs to push the dried kernels from the ear. Store the shelled corn in a glass jar with a lid. To make popcorn, measure kernels into a corn popper. You can also heat a tbsp. of oil in a heavy pot on the stove, add 1/4 cup of kernels, put the lid on the pot and move the pot back and forth across the stove burner until the popping ceases. Serve hot with salt, butter and other flavorings if desired.