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How to Grow Organic Popcorn

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How to Grow Organic Popcorn

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Overview

Popcorn is a snack developed by Native Americans through selecting suitable strains from indigenous flint corn. While most commercial popcorn today is grown from hybrid or genetically modified seed and cultivated with chemical fertilizers and insecticides, organic varieties of popcorn seed can be grown with organic methods in the small market or home garden. Organic popcorn is a healthy treat, and although it may not match the volume of non-organic popcorn when it is popped, it has a rich real-corn taste that can't be matched by commercial varieties.

Step 1

Obtain certified organic popcorn seed from a purveyor of heirloom and organic seeds. Select a planting site well-removed from any other varieties of corn you may be growing; plan a 10-foot-by-10-foot plot for every 3 to 4 oz. of popcorn seed you are planting.

Step 2

Prepare the planting site by removing all grass or other vegetation with a shovel. Turn the soil to a depth of 18 inches with a shovel to loosen it. Rake out all clods, roots, and stones with a metal rake. Add two 5-gallon buckets of well-rotted compost to each 100 square feet of planting area, turning it in well with a shovel. If the soil is heavy or poorly drained, add some sand to lighten the soil texture.

Step 3

Place organic popcorn seed in a quart mason jar or glass bowl. Fill the jar or bowl with non-chlorinated or filtered water, and allow the seeds to soak for 24 hours before planting.

Step 4

Gently pull the metal rake across the surface of the prepared bed to create parallel lines as planting guides. Remove popcorn seeds from the water in which they are soaking, and insert the popcorn seeds 1 to 2 inches deep into the soil with your fingers, 8 inches apart, leaving 18 to 24 inches between the rows.

Step 5

Water the newly planted seed thoroughly but gently with a hose nozzle set to a fine mist, so as not to wash the seed away. Water daily until popcorn plants emerge. Insert 4-foot stakes into the ground at intervals around the planting area, and lay bird netting over the stakes to discourage birds from eating the newly planted popcorn seed.

Step 6

Attach hose end sprayer to hose and fill with manufacturer's recommended quantity of fish emulsion fertilizer. Water thoroughly with fish emulsion fertilizer once a week after popcorn plants emerge and throughout the growing season. Remove bird netting when the plants reach the height of the supporting stakes.

Step 7

Harvest your organic popcorn ears at the end of the season after the plants have turned brown and begun to dry out. Husk the ears and lay them out in a cool, dry location to finish drying.

Step 8

When the organic popcorn ears are thoroughly dry, remove the kernels from the cobs by twisting them vigorously in your hands. Store the harvested kernels in a dry location.

Things You'll Need

  • Organic popcorn seed
  • Shovel
  • Metal rake
  • Compost
  • Liquid fish emulsion fertilizer
  • Sand
  • Water source
  • Hose with watering nozzle
  • Hose-end sprayer
  • Non-chlorinated or filtered water
  • Quart sized mason jar or glass bowl
  • Bird netting
  • 4-foot stakes

References

  • Western Illinois University News: WIU Organic Research Farm Pops with New Crop
  • Penn State College of Agricultural Science Cooperative Extension: Growing Sweet Corn, Baby Corn, and Popcorn
  • Utah State University Cooperative Extension: Popcorn in the Garden

Who Can Help

  • University of Wisconsin Extension Alternative Field Crops Manual: Popcorn
Keywords: grow organic popcorn, growing corn, organic popcorn seed

About this Author

Cindy Hill has practiced law since 1987 and maintained a career in freelance writing since 1978. Hill has won numerous fiction and poetry awards and has published widely in the field of law and politics. She is an adjunct instructor of ethics and communications.

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