Popcorn is a vegetable to grow in your garden, but you can use it as an educational tool to encourage your children or grandchildren to develop a love of gardening. The seeds are available both in the grocery store as popcorn for popping or through seed catalogs. Grocery store popcorn is often heat-treated to kill pests so may not germinate, according to Mother Earth News, which advises planting a few seeds to test germination before investing in a whole row. After you've found viable seed, growing popcorn is not much different than planting corn although the plant tends to be smaller--better for a backyard garden.
Soak your popcorn kernels overnight, once the outside temperatures have warmed to about 60 degrees during the daytime. Start with more than you think you will need, just in case they do not all germinate. Cover the kernels with just enough water to submerge them and keep them at room temperature.
Prepare your planting site by turning over the soil with a garden fork or spade and working in additional compost for extra nutrients for the popcorn. Popcorn, like sweet corn, is a heavy feeder and needs plenty of organic material in the soil. Remove any large stones or sticks and rake the area smooth.
Drag a row into the soil that is about 2 inches deep using your garden hoe, tilted to the side so that one edge is scratching through the soil. The soil will mound on the sides. If you have trouble making a straight line, you can run a string tied to some stakes from one end of the row to the other. You can remove the string once the popcorn has sprouted. It is better to make several short rows than one long row since the pollen is carried by the wind from plant to plant. Space your rows at least 12 inches apart.
Place the popcorn kernels in the middle of the trench, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Pull the soil in from the sides so that the trench is filled and the ground is level. Walk over the area, pressing the soil with the sole of your shoes, walking toe to heel.
Water the area with enough water to moisten the top 2 inches of soil. Keep the ground damp until you see the corn sprouts break through the soil, usually within a week. Popcorn will not need extra water after that unless there is a shortage of rain and you notice the plants are wilted or stunted.
Keep the weeds away from the base of the plants until the corn takes over the area. Allow the corn to remain on the plant until the whole plant dries. Harvest the cobs by pulling them off the stalks, and then removing the silk and husk. Dry the corn in a mesh bag in a warm room until a tested kernel pops easily giving with a crisp crunch when eaten
Things You Will Need
- According to Utah State University Extension, you can expect one to two ears of popcorn per plant.
- Don't plant popcorn near sweet corn or they might cross pollinate