Archived Story

About growing corn

Published 6:09am Monday, February 18, 2013 Updated 8:10am Monday, February 18, 2013

Bunkey was complaining to his neighbor, George, about how seed catalogs exaggerate the height and production of corn in particular. It didn’t take George long to discover what Bunkey’s problem was. He was doing it all wrong.

First of all, there are now four types of sweet corn. There are two classes of sugary enhanced; regular, styled se and SE. They have very tender kernels but don’t adapt well to stress. They do have better seed vigor, cheaper seed and need less isolation.

Then there is normal corn. It can be planted earlier than the sugary enhanced but doesn’t have the sweet taste. Start the water boiling before you pick this type as the taste deteriorates rapidly.

The third type is Super Sweet, sh2. This needs isolation from all other types or you lose the sweetness. The advantage of the newer varieties is that they keep their taste for up to a week if properly cooled.

Now, how to grow corn. First of all if you plan to grow more than one type, for instance, popcorn and super sweet, they must be separated by at least 100 feet. If they cross pollinate, you will be left with starchy, not sweet corn.

Next, plant corn in blocks, not rows. Corn is pollinated by wind. Plant no fewer than four rows, four feet apart. The soil temperatures need to be 75 degrees for untreated seed and 60 degrees for treated. Too cool soil will result in rotted seed.

When the seedlings emerge, side dress with bone meal. When they are knee high, (depending on your height but 15 to 18 inches), side dress again with a high nitrogen fertilizer, alfalfa or soybean meal if you are an organic gardener.

They will need another shot of this just before they form cobs.

Give them one to one and a half inches of water a week. Keep weeds down. Weeds take nutrition from your plants. This is true of all plants. If you mulch, you will have many fewer weeds to deal with. Nice to know in July when the temps and humidity are in three digits.

Check the plants every two to three days for insect damage or smut. Smut is the black glob growing where there should be a cob. Bag it and get it out of the garden.

It’s best to harvest corn in the early morning while the cobs are still cool. The rate of sugar loss is ten times greater at 70 then at 32 degrees. Dunk them in ice water as soon as you get them in the house. Shake off the water and refrigerate. They will be perfect for supper, or lunch if you can’t wait.

With these tips, Bunkey’s corn should be ten feet tall and full of cobs this summer.


Bev Johnson, is a master gardener for Otter Tail County.

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