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How to Grow Japanese Hulless Popcorn

popcorn image by Ewe Degiampietro from

Japanese hulless popcorn is an old variety of popcorn that commercial producers no longer grow. When popped, the kernels are tender and sweet, and the hulls basically disappear. These annual corn plants reach about 5 feet tall and produce three to six 4-inch cobs per plant. At home, these plants require little care to mature properly. Knowledge of how to create the right environment for the popcorn will help you produce a bountiful harvest.

Choose an area to plant your popcorn with full sun and well-drained, loamy soil two weeks after the danger of frost passes. Prepare the soil by digging to a depth of 6 to 8 inches with a spade, breaking up any clumps and removing rocks. Lay down a 1-inch layer of organic compost and mix into the soil.

Plant the Japanese hulless popcorn seeds 1 to 1.5 inches deep, spacing them 5 to 7 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart. Short rows will encourage better pollination.

Water the seeds, keeping them moist until they start to grow. When the corn plants are about 12 inches tall, thin them, leaving 6 to 8 inches between each plant. After this point, water during dry periods.

Fertilize the popcorn with a fertilizer marked 10-10-10. Follow directions on the package for application instructions, as each type will vary.

Harvest the hulless popcorn when the stalk has died and dried. Test one cob, and if it pops well harvest the rest. If it does not pop well, keep it drying on the stalk a bit longer.

Grow Popcorn Seeds

Dig the popcorn patch after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to 60 degrees F. Popcorn, like sweet corn, grows best in a block instead of rows, because the wind pollinates it from one stalk to another. Plant popcorn seeds every 8 inches in a grid pattern. If you dug a 4-by-4 plot, you will have a grid of 36 plants, with six across and six down. Plant the seeds 1 to 2 inches deep, depending on the variety of popcorn you are growing. The seed package will give you specific planting depths for your seeds. Water the popcorn plants regularly to keep the plants growing well and producing the ears. Popcorn needs about 2 inches of water per week. Fertilize the soil around the popcorn plants when they have eight to ten leaves. Side-dress with a nitrogen fertilizer by spreading the fertilizer on the ground beside the plants and watering it in. Weed the popcorn patch very frequently.

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