Corn is the most consumed cereal worldwide, and there’s a good reason why. It tastes delicious. We all know this, but we also know that knowledge alone can’t get you to eat more of it.
Sure, you can go to the store (or go to your local farmer) and buy some cornbread or corn chips right off the shelf, but did you know that you could grow your own?
Growing your own corn is not only cheaper than buying it from a store, but it’s healthier, and it tastes better too!
This article covers the basics of growing corn, including planting, caring, and harvesting. We’ll also discuss common problems and how to overcome them. Whether growing for personal use or selling, this guide will help you achieve a bountiful harvest.
Let’s start exploring!
- What Is Corn?
- Preparing the Soil
- Planting and Care
- Harvesting and Storing
- Common Problems
What Is Corn?
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of growing corn, let’s start by discussing what corn is.
Corn (Zea mays) is a plant that produces edible parts, including kernels. These kernels are sometimes called corn on the cob and are used to make things like cornbread, tortillas, and chips.
There are two main types of corn:
- Sweet corn
- Field corn
Sweet corn is the type you’ll find at the grocery store and is typically eaten as a vegetable.
Field corn is used mainly for livestock feed, ethanol production, and other industrial uses.
So, now you know what corn is and the different types available. Next, we’ll talk about how to prepare the soil for planting. Stay tuned!
Always use fresh seeds when planting corn and store seed in a cool, dry place. Old seeds can result in poor germination and weaker plants. Purchase seed from a reputable supplier and plant it within a year of the purchase date. Store the seed in an airtight container in a cool, dry room to maintain its viability.
Preparing the Soil
Alright, now that you know what corn is, let’s talk about soil preparation. This is a crucial step in growing a healthy corn crop.
First things first, make sure your soil is well-draining. Corn doesn’t like soggy soil and will quickly rot if the roots are sitting in water.
Next, test the pH of your soil. Corn prefers a pH of around 6.0, so if your soil is too acidic or alkaline, you’ll need to adjust it.
Finally, ensure your soil is rich in nutrients. Corn is a heavy feeder and will need regular fertilization to grow strong and healthy. Adding compost or well-rotted manure to your soil will help to improve fertility.
So, now you know how to prepare your soil for planting. Next, we’ll talk about planting and caring for your corn crop.
Planting corn before the last frost date in your area can result in poor germination and weak growth. Wait until the soil temperature has warmed up to ensure optimal results before planting your corn. Check with your local extension office for the recommended last frost date in your area and plan your planting accordingly.
Planting and Care
Now that you’ve prepared your soil, it’s time to plant your corn. Here’s what you need to know.
Timing Is Everything
Corn is a warm-season crop, which means it should be planted after the last frost date in your area.
This is usually around late spring or early summer. If you plant too early, the seedlings may get damaged by frost.
When planting, make sure to give your corn plenty of space. Corn requires a lot of room to grow, so plant it in blocks rather than single rows to improve pollination.
Plant the seed about 1 – 1.5 inches (2.5 – 4 cm) deep and about 8 – 12 inches (20 – 30 cm) apart.
Watering and Fertilizing
Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Corn needs about 1 – 1.5 inches (2.5 – 4 cm) of water per week, either from rainfall or irrigation.
As for fertilizing, corn is a heavy feeder and will benefit from regular fertilization. A balanced fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium is ideal for corn.
Pest and Disease Control
Corn is susceptible to several pests and diseases, so keep an eye out for any signs of trouble.
Common pests include cutworm, armyworm, and corn borer, while common diseases include rust, smut, and mosaic virus.
Use pesticides and fungicides as directed to control pests and diseases.
Harvesting and Storing
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the exciting part of growing corn – harvesting! Here’s what you need to know.
The best time to harvest your corn is when the silks on the ears have turned brown, and the ears feel full and firm when gently squeezed.
Don’t wait too long, or the corn will become tough and starchy.
Use Proper Technique
When harvesting, gently twist the ear of corn to remove it from the stalk, being careful not to damage the remaining ears.
Discard any ears that are damaged or diseased.
To store your corn, you can either keep it in the husk and store it in a cool, dry place or remove the husk and store the ears in the refrigerator.
If you remove the husk, it will last for about a week. If you leave the husk on, it will last about two weeks.
Growing corn can be a breeze, but sometimes things can go wrong.
Here are some common problems you may encounter and how to deal with them.
Pests such as cutworm, armyworm, and corn borer can wreak havoc on your corn crop.
Keep an eye out for signs of damage, such as holes in leaves or stalks. Use pesticides as directed to control pests.
Corn is susceptible to several diseases, such as rust, smut, and mosaic virus. Keep an eye out for symptoms such as discolored leaves or stunted growth. Use fungicides as directed to control diseases.
Corn is sensitive to weather conditions such as frost, droughts, and heavy rain.
Keep an eye on the forecast and take appropriate action to protect your crop, such as covering it with frost blankets or irrigation during droughts.
Corn is pollinated by the wind, so it’s essential to have a minimum of at least 4 rows of plants to ensure good pollination.
If you notice ears of corn that are underdeveloped or missing kernels, poor pollination may be the cause.
Corn requires certain nutrients to grow and thrive. If the soil is lacking in any of these nutrients, the plants may display symptoms such as yellowing leaves or stunted growth.
Common nutrient deficiencies include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Make sure to regularly fertilize your corn with a balanced fertilizer to prevent nutrient deficiencies.
Weeds can compete with your corn plants for water, nutrients, and sunlight.
Keep your garden beds free of weeds by regularly cultivating the soil, mulching, and hand-pulling any weeds that pop up.
Corn plants need a lot of space to grow, so make sure to plant them far enough apart.
If the plants are too close together, they will compete for resources and may not produce as many ears. A spacing of 8-12 inches (20 – 30 cm) is ideal for corn plants.
Growing corn is a rewarding experience. You can take pleasure in the bountiful harvest if you prepare your soil, plant properly, pay attention to common problems, and give your crop enough space and fertilizer for maximum yield.
Remember that corn is a warm-season crop, so it’s important to plant it at the right time and give it enough space for growth. With knowledge and effort, you can be sure to have delicious, fresh corn on the cob all season long.