Saturday, May 26, 2012

Growing Corn for the First Time

I have never grown corn before. I think it is because I just never seemed to have the room for corn in the garden and it is readily available at farm stands and farmers markets. I acquired a package of Silver Queen Corn, so I decided to give it a try.


Silver Queen Corn

I began with some research and learned that corn germinates best in soil that's warmer than 60°F. Corn seed sown in cool and moist soil is also susceptible to fungal disease. I also learned that starting corn seeds early inside is a challenge because it grows a long taproot and doesn't transplant well unless root disturbance is minimized.

I laid some corn seeds on a wet paper towel on May 10th to pre-sprout while I thought about how to proceed. At the time, our nights were still in the 40s and the 2-inch soil blocks I use for other transplants would not have capacity for a long taproot. But I knew that the corn plants would benefit from getting a head start. Hmmm....



Within 24-hours the corn seed began to sprout! Whoops! I thought I would have several days to mull over my decision. Now I had to act fast and get these seeds into some growing medium. I spotted an empty toilet tissue roll and thought this would be just the right size.



I didn't have enough tissue rolls to plant in, but I used it to quickly make up some newspaper pots and planted the pre-sprouted corn seeds:

Making Newspaper Pots



Within a couple days they were popping up out of the soil and were placed under the lights:

May 15th

I began hardening them off. Days were warm, but nights were still in the 40s°F so the corn seedlings were shuffled inside each evening. Soon the temperatures increased and they were spending nights outside with the other seedlings.




On May 24th, the corn seedlings were transplanted into the garden. The roots were just beginning to break through the bottom of the newspaper pots. 

Corn's Taproot Just Breaking Through the Newspaper Pot

I gently removed the extra paper on the bottom and top of the pots. The newspaper would break down eventually, but I didn't want to restrict the roots in any way. 


Extra Newspaper Removed from Top and Bottom of the Pot

24-corn transplant were block planted in one of the square foot gardens in front of the peas. 



Unfortunately, one was lost the first night to cutworm (I think). The rest are still standing tall. Hopefully I was able to give them a head start. We will see how they do. 

17 comments:

  1. Good luck. With my first corn planting only about a third of the plants came up. I expected that since it was so cool. But I've reseeded them and hopefully they will all come up now. I've never had great luck with corn. But the ones that do ear up are so good.

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    1. Thanks, Daphne. I figured it was worth a shot to try to start them early, but there is always the added issue of hardening them off before transplanting. Almost every seed germinated when I pre-sprouted them. Three never emerged once transplanted to the growing medium. It's fun to experiment.

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  2. Well done! Those starts look great and the tall newspaper pots are a perfect option to accomodate their long tap root. Hopefully the cut worms will give you a break and the rest of the stand will go on to be a great corn patch.

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    1. Thanks, Laura! It didn't take long for the tap roots to reach the bottom of the pots. Luckily I don't have a big problem with cut worms, but once and a while I find a perfectly healthy plant cut down.

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  3. I did not realize how quickly corned germinated, either. Those little guys sure are fast.

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    1. I guess with the right conditions, corn can germinate quite quickly. At least this package did.

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  4. WOOHOO, you know I love growing me some corn. It is a shame you have to go through all those steps. I always direct sow mine in early March and it seems to come up just fine despite night time temps in the 40's and 50's. Silver queen is great and peaches and cream is good too.

    Peaches and cream is the variety I always so early so you may want to try direct sowing some in the garden too. Only advice I can give is keep it fed with lots of nitrogen, unless your soil is super rich it won't do as well. I can't wait to see yours grow.

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    1. Well…. I didn't HAVE to go through all those steps if I was a little more patient and waited for temperatures to warm up :)

      I knew you would have some great corn advice. Thank you. I did amend the bed with compost and balanced fertilizer before planting. Hopefully, the corn will be happy with additional fish emulsion (5:1:1) every couple of weeks.

      If I had the room, I would try Peaches and Cream….maybe next year.

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    2. Yeah, I lack patience too but I am getting better at it with gardening and raising two little girls. LOL

      As long as you feed it three times with nitrogen it should be fine. I have heard that you should hit it with nitro at 18 inches high, waist high, and right at tassle stages.

      I am using 34-0-0 fast release ammonium nitrate on mine because I don't have the best soil in my corn plot. In my SFG's I don't feed it that strong. I hope I get a chance to plant silver queen, but I don't have any more room either. I am hoping to sneak some in a 4x4 bed once some things clear up.

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  5. I'll be interested to see how they do. How far apart did you plant them?

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    1. Hi Linda, I planted the corn roughly 8-inches apart. SFG spacing is 4/square. We will see what happens.

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  6. How incredible! What a great job you've done with your corn. Funny thing, MTG sent us Silver Queen, and along with a couple varieties from Robin we were motivated to corn for the first time too! But we accidentally did just the opposite of you. We took no care like the care you've given yours, and we only planted them yesterday. It will be interesting to see how things turn out for both of us.

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  7. That looks great ... I had the opportunity to visit a club member not too far from my house to check in on his corn...his is doing well also :-)

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  8. Looks like a clever answer to the taproot issue. I'm on your side with the usually buying sweet corn. But I'll grow popcorn! Good luck.

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  9. Neat newspaper pots! Anyway, I just wanted to share with you my experience growing corn- Last year I planted corn and one by one, the growing corn stalks started disappearing, or were completely shredded. One time I came out to the garden and caught the culprit in the act- a squirrel! It had chewed through one of the remaining stalks at the base and then scampered up a tree with the nearly three-foot stalk hanging out of its mouth! The corn must have been good- I'll never know, the squirrels got it all! I don't know if you have a problem with squirrels in your area like I do, but if you do- beware! Unless you or somebody has a method of squirrel proofing, but in my experience there isn't much you can do to keep those crafty little buggers away. Good luck! I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out for you, and I hope you have a better time at it than I did.

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  10. Silver Queen is a favorite of mine, but around here it is a late season corn, showing up at the farm stands in mid-September. So I think you made the right decision to start it early. The paper pots were very clever. Good luck with it.

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  11. Very cool pictures of the corn germinating. I forget that I am eating the seeds when I eat corn!

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