What is a summer barbecue or clambake without corn on the cob? Whether it is boiled, steamed, or grilled nothing tastes quite as good as a fresh ear of corn. Tomatoes get a lot of votes as a “favorite summer vegetable” but for me, it is all about the corn! Sinking my teeth into a sweet ear of corn is one of the best moments of summer and the size of the seeds and the plants make it a fun plant to grow with your kids. Corn has been grown as a food source for thousands of years but that doesn’t mean it’s not challenging to grow.
If you’ve never tried to grow corn or have not been successful in doing so here are 5 tips to growing delicious corn:
- It’s All About the Soil! Corn is a heavy feeder and requires soil that is rich in nutrients. Amending the soil with compost and other organic matter is vital to growing great corn and you should also fertilize the plants with a 10-10-10 fertilizer right when the plants start to produce tassels. Tassels are the fibers that emerge on the end of the corn ears that we remove during the husking process. Corn leaves should be a vibrant, dark green so if your leaves turn light green that’s a sign that more fertilizer is needed.
- Don’t Try to Get a Head Start on Growing Corn. You might be tempted to try to get a jump on the season by starting corn indoors but corn plants don’t transplant well. Since they are fast growers you can wait until about 2 weeks after the final frost in your area and then plant them directly in the soil. Soil temperatures should be above 60 degrees and you can plant the seed 1 inch deep and space plants about 6 to 8 inches apart.
- Corn is a Good Candidate for Succession Planting. If you are not familiar with succession planting it is a technique that involves staggering your seed planting so that your entire crop doesn’t ripen at the same time. By planting seed 2 to 3 times in 2-week intervals you can ensure you have corn to eat throughout the season. Corn is pollinated by the wind so you should plant it in several rows with about 2 to 3 feet between each row. Rather than having 1 or 2 long rows it is best to have 4 to 5 shorter ones.
- Don’t Forget the Roots! Corn plants have very shallow roots which dry out quickly and are easily damaged when you weed or cultivate around the plants. Mulching the plants is a great way to keep the weeds down while also maintaining moisture in the soil. You should be prepared to water the plants during dry spells.
- Harvest the Corn Properly and at the Right Time. When the aforementioned tassels are brown and the ear is visible than it is time to pick your corn. Pull the ear down and twist it off carefully as corn plants usually have more than 1 ear. Using your fingernail pierce one of the kernels and if it releases a liquid that resembles skim mile than the ear is ready to harvest. If possible harvest your corn in the morning when the ears are cool and the sugars are more concentrated in the kernels.
There are numerous varieties of corn but 2 of the most popular are Silver Queen, a white corn and Challenger Crisp N Sweet which is yellow. Regardless of which type you choose corn is a delicious addition to any summer meal!