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Growing Sweet Corn in Tennessee

corn in the field image by Kostyantyn Ivanyshen from

Sweet corn needs hot summer weather to grow and must be planted in full sun. Tennessee gardeners should have no trouble meeting this vegetable's preferred growing environment. Although exact planting dates vary by year, Tennessee gardeners can plant corn seed from mid-April to mid-May. Corn comes in three colors (yellow, white and bicolor) and three grades of sweetness (normal, sugary enhanced and supersweet). Sugary enhanced offer the best balance of sweetness and creamy corn texture. Many types of supersweet corn perform less well in Tennessee and should be avoided, notes the University of Tennessee.

Select a variety of corn seed that performs well in Tennessee to get the best harvest. The University of Tennessee recommends Merit, Silverado, Honey 'n Pearl, Golden Queen and Kandy Korn for planting.

Prepare the soil in your garden bed for planting corn seed when the soil warms to 55 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn over the soil with a shovel to aerate it; break apart any clumps with your fingers. Pull rocks, weeds and roots out of the soil so your corn seed can germinate without competition for resources.

Smooth out the soil grade across your garden bed to remove valleys or hills. Then create a long furrow with a trowel that's 1 inch deep.

Sow corn seeds in the furrow, spacing one seed every 9 to 12 inches. Cover over the furrow with soil when you've finished.

Plant a second and third row of corn seed in the same manner, leaving 30 to 36 inches between rows. Three rows ensures optimal pollination, but you can plant additional rows as you wish in the same manner.

Water the newly planted corn seed until the ground becomes wet but not boggy. Keep the soil moist until the corn seed germinates.

Scatter pine straw or mulch over the soil when the corn seed has germinated and grown a couple of inches tall. This cuts down on weeding.

Apply nitrogen fertilizer when the corn plants reach 12 to 18 inches in height, following the suggested ratio on your fertilizer package. Mix water-soluble fertilizer with water, then water plants with the fertilizer juice or scatter a dry fertilizer on top of the soil and water to work it into the ground.

The University of Tennessee advises using 1 1/2 lb. of ammonium nitrate per 100 feet of corn rows.

Continue to water the corn plants when the soil dries out and becomes crumbly.

Harvest your corn when the ears bulge and the tassels dry out and lose their silky feel. Most corn varieties are ready for harvest in 70 to 100 days, notes the University of Illinois.

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