I don’t care what you grow in your garden, nothing can beat a freshly picked cob of sweet corn. Period! End of discussion.
But – and this is the truth – it takes a lot of space to grow corn. Each stalk will normally give you only one good cob (maybe a second much smaller one in a good year). I used to grow it in our farm garden but that was a massive garden. In our much smaller garden now we don’t grow it. We rely on an organic market garden to grow it for us.
When to Plant Sweet Corn
Plant corn about 2 weeks before your last frost date. The warmer the soil, the better the seed will germinate. Cold soils will rot the seed so early plantings will be sparse and sporadic germinators. Better to plant a little later than too early.
Where to Plant
The nice thing about this plant is you can grow it in almost any kind of soil – from sand to clay but always in the full, hot sun.
Note the empty (whitish) tips are usually the result of incomplete pollination – it doesn’t hurt the taste of the corn at all.
How to Plant
Plant your seed 1/2 inch – 1.2 cm deep – no more – and 6-inches – 15 cm apart for early varieties and 12-inches – 20-22 cm apart for bigger, later varieties.
A row should be approximately 3-4M long at a minimum and you’ll require 4 rows so the corn plants will cross pollinate. Rows should be .6 to .8M apart. If you plant your corn in a single row, expect to get missing kernels or misshapen cobs (or both).
And never leave a seed showing in the row. If you do, a bird or beast will find it. And then they figure out that where’s there’s one, there has to be more.
Care & Maintenance
Corn is a greedy feeder so extra helpings of compost and a once a month dose of liquid fish emulsion will help to grow big tall plants.
28 gms of seed will sow approximately 15m of row so the minimum you should consider planting will be 28 gm in 4 rows of 3-4m each.
Although corn is a tough plant, weather conditions influence the size and shape of the cob. Cold nights in late June will make your cob quite short but like all things in the garden, there’s little you can do so just understand that sometimes you’ll get long cobs and some years you’ll get the short guys. Later plantings will be more uniform.
Many commercial seeds are treated with fungicides such as captan to prevent seed rotting. Untreated seed should only be planted when the ground is up to 18C and that’s around the beginning of June in the average year in zone 5.
Sometimes there are small cobs produced on the bottom of the plant. Do not harvest these or remove them – there’s research showing a slow down in growth rate of the main crop if you do.
Bird damage can be stopped by putting small paper bags over the cobs as they mature.
Borer or ear worm can be controlled by applying a mineral or horticultural oil to the silks.
Porcupines lean against the stalks and knock them down to eat the corn while raccoons can break the stalks or simply reach up to harvest the cobs without knocking over the entire stalk. So if your corn patch looks like a bulldozer went through it – it’s porcupines. If it’s only broken stalks – it’s raccoons.
Both of these animals can climb regular fences with ease.
- To protect the crop, you’re going to have to top your regular fence with a strand of electric fencing wire (and cover that wire with peanut butter) Hint: Do not cover it with peanut butter while it’s turned on. 😉
- It’s also useful to run a wired about six-inches off the ground to prevent digging under the fence.
This will not cause any permanent damage to the animal but it will give them a jolt and they’ll avoid the area afterwards.
(all numbers rounded out)
1/4 inch = .6 cm
1/2 inch = 1.3 cm
1 inch = 2.5 cm
6 inch = 15 cm
12 inch = 30 cm
18 inch = 45 cm
36 inch = 91 cm
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