Growing your own corn on the cob is a wonderful experience the whole family can enjoy.
Sinking your teeth into a perfectly ripened ear of sweet corn is one of the finest pleasures of summer, and early-maturing sweet corn varieties like Funks G90 will offer a harvest sooner than you might think. You will need to wait 3 weeks longer for Yellow Dent, but your reward will be kernels packed with sweetness and rich corn flavor.
To get started in growing your own sweet corn, you need to understand the basic anatomy of the corn stalk.
Corn is monoecious (mon-ee-shuss) which means that there are both male and female flowers on each corn plant. In corn, male and female flowers are in different locations - the male flowers form a tassel which is at the top of the plant. The female flower is located at the junction of leaves and stem. It consists of a collection of hairs (silks) enclosed in the husks of what will become the ears. These silks are pollen-receiving tubes. Wind-blown pollen from the male flowers (tassel) falls on the silks below. It's interesting to know that each silk leads to a kernel, and pollen must land on all silks for the ear to fill out completely with kernels. Kernel "skips" (ears only partly filled out with kernels) often are the result of poor pollination.
The best way to promote complete pollination is to plant corn in blocks rather than long individual rows—a block should be at least three rows wide. Your corn will have a much better chance to produce flavorful ears when planted in this block style.
It’s recommended that you start between 12 and 20 plants per member of your household if you want to enjoy corn throughout the season.
Where to Plant
Corn needs a spot with that gets full sun and has fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Seedlings can be set out as soon as the last spring frost has passed. Space plants 8 to 12 inches apart. In case of a surprise late frost, be prepared to cover seedlings with a fabric row cover. Corn does not like cold temps, so make sure that there is no chance of a late frost. Mid-March is an ideal time, just keep and eye on the weather!
Corn is picky about its soil. Sweet corn requires rich soil with ample nitrogen and moisture. Even good garden soils may need some fertilizer to produce a top-quality crop. Aged manure and/or compost, mixed well into the soil, is helpful. Growing corn in an area that had healthy beans or peas the previous year is helpful because these legumes contribute more nitrogen to the soil. Cornstalks growing with ample moisture and in well-prepared, fertile soil can be expected to produce two ears per stalk.
Because corn is wind-pollinated, plant it in blocks of rows, rather than in a long, single row, which would result in poor pollen distribution on the silks.
Corn has the same needs as most vegetables when it comes to soil pH (acidity or alkalinity). The best range for all vegetables is between 5.8 and 6.8 on the pH scale. This measurement indicates that soil is slightly acidic (the scale runs from 0 to 14, with 7 marking the neutral point). Anything below 7 is acid; anything above is considered alkaline. Contact your local extension service to have your soil tested every few years to be sure the pH is at an acceptable level. To raise your soil's pH, you add lime or to lower the pH, you add sulphur, and specific amounts are usually recommended in the test results.
If you've grown corn before in the same garden, change the place where you plant it, or rotate it every year. This can be tricky if you don't have lots of garden space, but when you rotate corn, you help prevent disease and pest problems from recurring. You also keep your garden's natural fertility in balance by moving heavy feeders, like corn, around.
Taking Care of Growing Corn
Plan to fertilize twice because corn is a hungry plant. Before setting out seedlings, amend the soil with compost and mix a balanced organic or timed-release fertilizer into the soil. About a cup of 13-13-13 per 10 feet of row is a good general rate, but be sure to check and follow rates given on the label of any fertilizer you are using. About 6 weeks or so later, when the plants start to produce tassels, fertilize them again. (If you amend the soil with cottonseed meal or other high-nitrogen amendment, it may not be necessary to feed the second time.). It’s recommended to feed your plants every three to six weeks with an aged compost or nitrogen-rich plant food. Nitrogen is especially important, since corn is basically a grass. The Native American practice of burying a fish head with the corn seeds was a practical means of supplementing nitrogen. An inch or two of compost or rotted manure will also work, as will feeding with fish emulsion. Watch for signs of nitrogen deficiency (yellowing leaves) and respond with quick side-dressings of fish emulsion, manure, commercial fertilizer, or a combination of the three.
Thin the corn to stand 12 to 16 inches apart when the plants are 4 to 5 inches tall and provide at least 1 inch of water a week. You can easily control weeds with frequent shallow cultivation until the plants are about knee high. Keep in mind if you are going to be using a chemical herbicide around your garden area where your corn is growing, that it will probably kill the corn. Corn is technically a grass, therefore grass killers, will have the same effect. Its a good idea to apply a 3- to 5-inch layer of mulch. Mulching is wonderful to help retain moisture for growing plants.
Harvesting Your Corn
Older farmers will tell you the best time to harvest your corn, is the day before the racoons do! But anyways, after 60 to 100 days depending on the variety you planted and your weather, your sweet corn will be ready to harvest! When the husks covering the ears become a deep green, the silky threads turn a light brown and the kernels are plump and juicy, the corn is ready to pick. Each plant will likely only yield two ears.
To see if an ear is ready for harvest, look at the silks. They should be brown and dry with just a little fresh green at the base. Squeeze the husk to see if the ear inside feels plump, not skinny. If you’re still not sure if the ear seems ripe, check by peeling just enough of the husk back to expose a couple of inches of the ear. An easy test to do to see if your corn is ready is to poke your fingernail into a kernal. If the liquid that comes out is a milky color, you're good to go! If the liquid is clear, the ear is not ready.
In most cases, harvest occurs around 20 days after the appearance of the silks. It’s recommended to harvest your sweet corn in the morning and to immediately place them into ice-cold water in order to preserve their texture and sweetness.
When kept chilled, they should hold much of their sweet flavor for up to a week, though they’ll taste best if eaten as close to harvesting as possible.
The varieties of corn that we offer at the store are tried and true types that grow very well in our East Texas area. To find out what they are, follow this link- Our Corn Seeds We Offer