Corn

Corn is a very popular crop to grow, but here a few tips to ensure it thrives.

PLANTING

Corn grows best from seeds, and does not do well being transplanted. Therefore I would not recommend purchasing seedlings.

There a number of varieties of corn, including popping corn, which is best dried and popped instead of being eaten fresh.

Corn should be spaced about 20cm apart. This is to allow enough room for the ears to develop. Simply poke a finger into the ground a drop a seed into each hole. Corn seeds are dried corn kernels, and so quite easy to sow.

Corn should be planted in blocks instead of rows. This is to facilitate pollination.

To prevent the seeds from rotting, water them thoroughly and then do not water them again until they are 10cm tall.

FERTILISING

If you companion plant corn using the "three sisters" method, then no additional fertilising is needed. This is because the three plants all feed each other the essential nutrients needed. It is by far the best way to plant corn. See below.

If you choose not to use the three sister's method, it is recommended that you fertilise them well as corn is a heavy feeder.

Before you plant, mix compost into the soil or you can add fish or bone meal. Once the seedlings are about 15 cm tall, fertilise with seaweed solution. After that, every four weeks the seedlings will need nitrogen fertiliser. This can be done by adding coffee grounds to the soil in between the rows of corn. Continue this until the ears produce their silks and then stop.

Applying Seasol and coffee grinds in moderation can also be done when the three sister's method is being applied.

POLLINATION

Corn needs to pollinate in order for the ears to form. If winds are too high, then the pollen can grow away before the crop has been fertilised. Pollination occurs when the pollen on the top of two stalks rub together. It is to effect pollination that corn is recommended to be grown in blocks and not rows. This allows more chance of stalks to rub together. You can manually pollinate your corn by rubbing the tops of the stalks together, or you can use a paint brush.

HARVESTING

Corn is ready when the silks die off and turn brown. Gently peel back the outer husk and look at the top corn kernels (which are the last to mature). You can use a nail to check the kernel is ripe, by gently puncturing it to see that it is juicy and not hard.

COMPANION PLANTING

The best companion planting method for corn is the three sister's method. This includes corn, legumes (usually climbing beans) and cucurbits (usually zucchini or pumpkin). The most common combination in home gardens is corn, climbing beans and zucchini. But the zucchini can be substituted for any cucurbit like pumpkin, watermelon or squash.

Corn will always do best when it is planted with climbing beans, as the nitrogen given by the beans will feed them through the season.

CROP ROTATION

If you are using the three sister's method, then as the three plants all feed each other their essential nutrients, they will fit into the crop rotation system as any stage.

If you are planting just corn, then because they are heavy nitrogen feeders they actually do best planted after a legume crop.

SUCCESSION PLANTING

You can succession plant corn to a point. Corn can be planted once the last frost has passed, and can be planted every few weeks until mid January. Corn planted before the last frost is unlikely to germinate because the soil temperature will be too cool. After this time, in a cold climate, they will not have enough time to fruit before it becomes too cool.

CONTAINER PLANTING

There is nothing preventing corn from being grown in a container because it does not have a very extensive root system. However, ensure that you do not over crowd the pot, especially if you intend to companion plant (which is recommended).