How to Grow Corn

  Armenian Cucumber
Corn requires warm soil to germinate. Don't plant earlier than two weeks after the last killing frost. Even better, measure the temperature of your soil to insure that it is no less than 60 degrees F, preferably in a range between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal soil type is loose and well-drained, but corn will grow in any soil from sandy to clay. Late varieties do better in heavy soils; early varieties are preferred in sandy soils. Corn is a heavy feeder and it is important to amend your planting area with compost, manure and bonemeal prior to planting. The ideal site is also light saturated; corn grows fastest in full sunlight. It stops growing when the temperature drops below 50 degrees, an important consideration in areas with short growing seasons.

Corn is a wind-pollinated crop. The most common cause of poorly filled ears is poor pollination. For this reason, if you have a small garden, consider planting in a block four or five rows across, sowing your seeds 1-2 inches deep every 9 - 12 inches. Firm the soil after planting so there is good seed-to-soil contact and maintain even soil moisture during the crucial germination period. Use fresh seed for your planting. Corn seed is relatively short-lived and spotty germination will result in poor pollination.

For an extended harvest, consider sowing more than one variety. Early and late sowings grow more slowly than corn planted when conditions are ideal and for this reason you may get the best results if you plant early, mid-season and late varieties in one large sowing. If you mix different types of corn (standard sweet, synergistic, sugary enhanced) your planting areas must be separated by distance or barriers to prevent crossing. Crossing will result in less sweet, starchy corn. 25' between blocks is adequate for small plantings. Allow 100' if you are planting commercial quantities of an acre or more.

Harvest corn at the milk stage, when the kernels exude a milky juice when you puncture them with your fingernail. Milk stage is brief so you must check frequently. Other signs the corn is ready to pick include fullness of the ears up to the tip (squeeze them to tell) and brown, dry silks. The sugars in corn turn rapidly to starch after picking, so eating the corn as soon as possible after picking is essential. If you must pick in advance, store corn in a cool, refrigerated location to preserve its sweetness. Do not leave it sitting in warm summer air.

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