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How to Grow Sweet Corn

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Fresh Corn on the cob is one of summer's very special treats. Sweet Corn is one of the most popular vegetables at the dinner table year round. So, why don't most home gardeners grow it?

The answer is space. Sure, a single corn plant uses only a couple square inches of garden space. Unfortunately, you need many plants to properly pollinate a successful crop. And, the yield is only one or two ears of sweet corn per plant. Finally, when the harvest arrives, it all arrives at once.

If you have the space, chances are you are growing corn. There's nothing like the taste of sweet corn picked moments before it's put into a pot of boiling water , or placed on the grill.

If you grow sweet corn (and, we sure hope you do), there are plenty of varieties to choose from.Varieties include yellow, white, and bi-colors. There's popcorn and ornamental corn. And, don't forget the broom corn...honest!

Stalks vary in size, depending upon variety. In general, the longer growing varieties grow taller stalks. They can grow up to eight feet tall or more. Corn stalks are great for fall decorating.

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How to Grow Corn:

Grow Corn in full sun. It prefers rich, fertile soil. Soil should drain well. Corn thrives in the heat of summer.  Plants are somewhat tolerant of dry soil.

Sow corn seeds directly into the garden after all danger of frost and the soil has begun to warm. Planted too early, the seeds will rot in wet, cold soil. Plant in rows, about 1/2 to 1 inch deep. Space four to six inches apart in rows three feet apart. Water well after planting, and again two to four days later if there has been no rain.

Apply fertilizer every two to three weeks to help fuel it's growth.

Corn likes it hot. It is somewhat resistant to dry weather. It sends it's roots deep, seeking moisture in the dry summer conditions. It will be one of the last garden vegetables to wilt in the heat of the sun and drought. Corn does not like frost or freezes.

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Days to Maturity: 65 to 95 days depending on variety. Everyone wants the earliest corn possible. If you have the space, we recommend choosing at least one each of early, mid and late corn varieties.

Corn is at it's best when the kernels have just filled out. It is best to pick corn just before eating. If you need to store it, harvest corn in the morning when it is at it's peak sweetness.Pick ears when the silk has dried and and turned a dark brown.

Corn stalks are the second harvest. Let them dry  in your garden. Cut the the stalks off at the base, for use in fall decorations.

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Insects, Pests, and Disease:

Corn Ear worms and silkworms are the most common pests. Insects are usually not often a problem until the ears begin to form. Entry is through the silk. Sevin dust is very effective when applied directly on the silk, or dusted in the air.

To control corn earworms, some people apply a couple drops of mineral oil on the tassels. Apply it after pollination. The mineral oil suffocates the earworms.

Deer are also be a problem, if they exist in your area.

Bluejays and other birds will will often feast in a cornfield.

Occasionally a corn fungus develops at the ear. It is a black-ish, purple colored mass. It grows in rainy weather. If corn fungus is present, remove and destroy the plant.

The ugly, black-ish, purplish corn fungus on your corn stalk is edible. It is considered a delicacy to some. In Mexico, it is called "cuitlacoche" and is considered a delicacy.

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More Information:

Garden Recipes - Find Corn recipes and garden recipes galore!


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