Grow Sweet Corn in Your Garden

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Enjoying fresh, sweet corn straight from your garden builds wonderful summer memories and is a great reward for all your hard work in your garden.  Follow these 9 simple steps to grow and care for your sweet corn:

  1. Choose an area in your garden that receives full sun, has well drained soil, and allows you full access to water the area.
  2. Choose the type of sweet corn you want to grow; I recommend buying open pollinated (non-hybrid) varieties such as Golden Bantman or Stowell's Evergreen. Through the use of open pollinated seeds, your crop will produce viable seeds that you then will be able to use next year and therefore prevents the necessity of buying new seed each year.
  3. After the last frost, once your soil is at least 65 F., work your soil at least 6 inches deep and create rows 24-30 inches apart.  Since corn is a wind pollinated crop, it is best to plant 4 or more short rows rather than 1 or 2 long rows, this will ensure the best production possible.
  4. Corn is susceptible to nitrogen deficiency, so before you plant, test your soil to determine your nitrogen levels. Easy to use soil test kits can be bought at most garden and hardware stores. If you find your soil lacking in nitrogen you can either add a starter fertilizer to help them germinate or add the appropriate amount of fertilizer once they have reached 2 feet tall. However, if you are uncomfortable with fertilizing your garden, consider growing beans or other nitrogen-fixing legumes near the corn.
  5. Saturate the rows with water the day before and the day of the planting to ensure your soil doesn't become hydrophobic and that it drains well.
  6. Sow the corn seeds into the soil 1/2-1 inch deep and about 3-4 inches apart within each row. Many gardeners choose to plant three seeds within each hole, especially if you tend to have trouble with birds harvesting your seeds before they sprout. It will take 5-10 days for your seeds to germinate, during this time keep your seeds watered.
  7. Once your seedlings have germinated, thin the crop to 6-12 inches apart within each row, ensuring each seedling will have enough room to grow.
  8. Continue to provide a steady supply of water throughout the growing season, enough to keep the plants from wilting, and increase the amount of water provided during the time that the kernels are being produced. 
  9. Your corn will be ready to harvest in about 95 days, a good way to tell if it is time to harvest your sweet corn is if the juice from the kernels is milky-white.  Once harvested, the corn should be cooked immediately or stored in the refrigerator until it is time to cook it. If you want to store your corn longer than a day or two, consider freezing it until you are ready to use it.
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