Corn

Corn

Zea mays var. saccharata

Corn prefers hot or warm, frost-free weather. It needs full sun and windbreaks in areas where strong winds are a problem. Corn is pollinated by the fall of pollen from male flowers (tassels) at the top of the stem onto female flowers (silks) lower down. When corn is pollinating, water at ground level so as not to disturb the process.

Preparing the Soil

Corn is a heavy feeder and requires a rich soil. Plan to enrich the soil well in advance of planting. If possible, work in a 1-inch layer of manure the preceding fall. Alternatively, you can grow a green manure crop, such as buckwheat, oats, clover, rye, winter wheat, or vetch that will be plowed under in the spring.

Planting

Plant seeds 8 to 10 inches apart in a furrow or trench, then hill the plants as they grow. This supports the plants and helps get rid of weeds. You will need to plant blocks of at least 4 rows for good pollination.

If you plan to plant different varieties of corn, allow at least 100 feet between them. They will cross pollinate each other, and you will only get one variety. This is especially important if will be planting popcorn, as it usually dominates.

Watering

During a dry season, watering is essential both when the corn is tasseling and when the kernels are forming. Try to saturate the ground to a depth of about 4 inches. Surface dampness will only encourage shallow roots.

Fertilizing

For best results, side dress twice during the growing season with liquid plant food. Fish emulsion and manure tea are good choices. Soak the soil around each plant with plant food when the seedlings are about 8 inches high an again when they are about knee high.

Harvesting

The prime time for corn to be harvested comes 12-14 weeks after planting and lasts only a few days, so check repeatedly to see if the corn is ready. Puncture a kernel with your fingernail to see if milky juice spurts out. If you are too early, the juice will be watery. Later, the kernels turn doughy inside as moisture recedes and sugar turns to starch. Hear are some other signs of readiness:

  • Dark green husks
  • Brown, but not brittle, silks
  • Well-filled ears

How to control pests and diseases that infect your corn.

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