How to Plant Popcorn

Overview

Grow your own popcorn and store the bounty for year-round use as a simple yet tasty snack. Like other corn varieties, popcorn grows on tall stalks. Instead of picking it when it is still immature like you would sweet corn, popcorn is harvested once the cobs and kernels have dried completely. Popcorn is grown in the same way as sweet corn is, but they cannot both be planted in the same year as popcorn will pollinate sweet corn and ruin the flavor.

Step 1

Prepare a garden bed in full sun in an area that drains well and isn't prone to standing water. Lay a 2-inch layer of compost over the bed and then spread 1 lb. of balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 analysis, over the bed. Till both the fertilizer and compost into the top 8 to 10 inches of soil.

Step 2

Sow seeds 1 inch deep and space them 9 inches apart in rows. Space the rows 3 feet apart. Water the bed thoroughly after planting so that the soil is evenly moist throughout.

Step 3

Water the corn once a week, providing 1 to 2 inches of water at each irrigation. Do not allow the soil to dry out. Lay a 2-inch layer of straw mulch around the base of the popcorn plants to help preserve soil moisture and prevent weeds between watering.

Step 4

Fertilize popcorn plants a second time when the popcorn plants are about 2 feet tall. Apply ¼ cup of super-nitrate fertilizer per 100-foot row, working the fertilizer into the soil between rows.

Step 5

Harvest the popcorn after the stalks have begun to yellow and when the corn ears and outer husks are completely dried in the fall. Strip the dried husk from each ear and place the ears in a mesh sack. Hang in a warm, dry room for two weeks.

Step 6

Strip four or five kernels off an ear and try popping them. If they pop readily, the popcorn is ready to use. If they don't, continue drying and try popping kernels once a week until the popcorn is ready. Strip the kernels off all the cobs and store them in a sealed container in a cool, dry place.

Tips and Warnings

  • Too much rain around harvest can ruin the popcorn. Pull up the entire plants and bring them inside to dry if a rainy autumn is expected.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Mesh sack

References

  • Iowa State University Extension: Growing, Harvesting and Storing Popcorn
  • University of Illinois Extension: Corn
Keywords: planting popcorn, growing popcorn plants, edible gardening

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.