Having fresh vegetables from your garden is not only a rewarding process but a great benefit to your health. Growing corn can help with your physical health as well as nourish your mental well-being. You can start growing your own corn garden and begin reaping the rewards with a little know-how and elbow grease.
Research the area you plan to plant. It is important to know about the climate and soil type, so as to make preparations for each different kind of corn. Some types of corn prefer warmer/cooler soil and different soil pH levels.
Know how to plant sweet corn. Sweet corn is the classic variety typically eaten on the cob or from a can. It is known for a golden yellow kernel and a light, sweet flavor. Sweet corn is most commonly used in home gardens. Standard sweet corn (labeled as ‘su’ on seed packets) is the most mild of the sweet corns. Over 50% of the sugar contained in standard sweet corn is converted to starch within 24 hours of being picked, so it must be consumed or canned soon after being harvested. Sugar enhanced sweet corn (labeled as ‘se’ on seed packets) is genetically modified to slow the sugar to starch conversion rate, increasing the sweetness and tenderness of the kernels. Super sweet corn (labeled as ‘sh2’ on seed packets) is the sweetest variety available. It’s kernels are slightly smaller than other sweet corn varieties, and shrivel when dried.
Learn about dent corn. Dent or field corn is not typically grown to eat raw. It is used primarily as feed for animals or for use in making many processed foods. Growing dent corn is beneficial for use on a farm or for selling to other farms.
Understand the basic type of flint corn. Flint corn, also called Indian corn, is characterized by hard, multi-colored kernels. It has uses similar to dent corn, but is not grown as widely in the United States as its preferred habitat is in central and South America. It is often used for its decorative purposes.
Know when to plant. Depending on your region, you will need to plant seeds at a different time. Typically between May and June is the best time to plant. Be wary of planting too early though, as if the soil is too cold the seeds will rot.
Choose a location. Corn likes to grow in areas of full sun, so select a garden plot that is out in the open. Try to choose an area relatively free of weeds, as corn as a difficult time competing with them in a bed.
Prepare the soil. Corn prefers soil that is nitrogen rich and well manured. If possible, plant in soil that you have already grown beans or peas in, as they help to enrich the soil with more nitrogen. Make sure the soil is about 60 °F (16 °C). If it is not warm enough, you can help to increase the temperature by covering the ground in black plastic and cutting holes to plant the corn through. Add compost or manure to the soil two and four weeks before planting so that it has time to incorporate with the soil.
Plant your corn. For every one person who intends on consuming corn, plant ten to fifteen plants. If each plant is 100% successful, they should produce two ears of corn apiece. Corn is wind-pollinated, so it is best to plant it in blocks rather than individual rows so that the pollen has a better chance of germinating. Plant the seeds 1–2 inches (2.5–5.1 cm) below the surface of the soil, with each plant 24–36 inches (61.0–91.4 cm) apart. To increase the odds of the seeds germinating, plant 2-3 seeds together at each placement. If you grow multiple varieties of corn, be sure to grow them in separate plots to reduce the risk of cross-pollination. Should cross-pollination occur, it would produce tough, starchy kernels.
Water the corn. Corn requires about one inch of water a week, and lax watering can produce ears with many missing kernels. Try to avoid watering from the top of the plant, as doing so can remove the plant’s pollen. Wait. As the saying “knee-high by the fourth of July” goes, your corn should be 12–18 inches (30.5–45.7 cm) tall by the beginning of July. The corn is finished growing about three weeks after it develops “tassels” - a dry, brown silk tail at the top of the ear.
Pick your corn and enjoy. The corn is ready to be harvested when the kernels are tightly packed and produce a milky fluid when punctured. Eat immediately after picking for the best flavor and optimum freshness.