Row by Row Episode 243: How To Grow Sweet Corn
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Row by Row Episode 243: How To Grow Sweet Corn

Row by Row Episode 243: How To Grow Sweet Corn

  1. How much and when to plant sweet corn?
Sweet corn is a warm season crop and must be planted after the soil warms and there is no more danger of frost. It needs to be at least 55 degrees f (13 c). If you plant super sweet corn, be sure the soil is at least 65 f (18 c). Plant the sweet corn seeds about 1 inch deep and 3 to 4 inches apart in the row. Space the rows 2 ½ to 3 feet apart. After the plants are up, thin them to 1 foot apart. If you plant them closer, your corn will have small, poorly filled ears. Each variety of corn has different quantities per pound based on the type of corn you’re growing. Also, the seed spacing and row spacing differ between field and popcorn vs. sweet corn. Be sure and check each product page for how many seeds per pound are include with that variety of corn to make sure you’re purchasing the right amount of seed for your space. Field Corn & Popcorn
  • Based on 8 inch seed spacing with 36 inch row spacing and 5 extra seeds per row just in case.
  • 20 seeds per 10 ft row
  • 60 seeds per 10x10 plot with 3 rows
  • 600 seeds per 1000 square feet
  • This means you would need roughly 29,000 seeds of field corn or popcorn per acre.
Sweet Corn
  • Based on 6 inch seed spacing with 36 inch row spacing and 5 extra seeds per row just in case.
  • 25 seeds per 10 ft row
  • 75 seeds per 10x10 plot with 3 rows
  • 750 seeds per 1000 square feet
  1. Do you advise transplanting corn?
We personally do not recommend transplanting corn. While it is certainly possible, corn is very finicky and only allows for a very small window of time between when the seedlings are big enough to transplant and when it is too late to transplant, and so it tends to be more likely to be a successful crop when directly sown.
  1. Spacing and Timing when planting different varieties
Different varieties produce pollen at different times, so you can isolate them by time. Since different varieties will respond individually to growing conditions, do not isolate them with less than two weeks until the given “days to maturity” in the variety description. You can also plant one variety earlier than another variety to achieve the needed difference in pollen production. If you garden in an agricultural area, try to plant your sweet corn 300 feet from the nearest cornfield. Large acreages of field corn will produce so much pollen that you could spoil your crop unless you plant your sweet corn far enough away. The only type of corn you don’t have to worry about cross pollination are the synergistic types of triple sweets and quad sweets. Field corn must be isolated from sweet corn so there is no cross pollination. Field corn should be planted 12 inches apart.
  1. What causes lack of pollination?
Sweet corn must self-pollinate or pollinate with a similar variety. Wind moves corn pollen from the tassel at the top of the plant to the silks of the ears, all the way to the lower parts of the plant. Always plant corn in blocks of at least four rows. Corn planted in a single row will have much of its pollen blown out of the row and will produce ears that have blank areas where kernels did not form. If you garden in an agricultural area, try to plant your sweet corn 300 feet from the nearest cornfield. Large acreages of field corn will produce so much pollen that you could spoil your crop unless you plant your sweet corn far enough away.
  1. Can I grow corn in raised beds and containers?
WE have been growing corn at HOSS for a long time. So, while you may see plenty of information on the internet that might suggest otherwise, growing corn in raised beds and containers is not something we personally recommend. Corn is pollinated by the wind, not by insects, so to have a good, healthy crop, you need to be able to plant a minimum of 5 rows of corn to get proper pollination between the plants. From a space standpoint, corn is just not well suited for raised beds or containers.
  1. What is your best advice to give when your corn gets blown over after a storm? What is the best way to upright?
The best thing to do is just leave it alone. If the stalks did not break, they will stand back up.
  1. How do I plant and how deep if using drip tape?
Water sweet corn as needed to keep it from wilting, and do not let sweet corn suffer from lack of water while the kernels are forming, or the quality of the corn will be vastly reduced. One inch of rainfall per week is good for your corn. You can plant the drip tape as deep as 6 inches. Corn should be planted 1 inch deep, best to place the drip tape under the soil 2 to 3 inches deep.
  1. When should I fertilize sweet corn?
When plants are about 2 feet tall, apply 1 cup of fertilizer for every 10 feet of garden row. Scatter the fertilizer evenly between the rows and mix it lightly with the soil. Water after fertilizing.
  1. When and how should I harvest sweet corn?
Corn is ready for harvest about 3 weeks after the tassel grows on top of the corn plant. Corn is ripe when juice from the kernels is milky white, the silk on the ears has turned dark brown. The best time to pick corn is in the early morning or evening when it is cool. Store corn in the husk. Place it uncovered in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days. Corn stored for more than 2 days loses its sweetness. To preserve corn, you can can it, blanch and freeze it, or freeze-dry it.
  1. How do you choose sweet corn varieties?
If it is your first time growing corn, we recommend growing one of the standard varieties like Silver Queen, G90, Jubilee, etc. The reason is you have a longer growing period (about 15 days longer) than the maturity date. You have a little more leeway as a far as getting enough fertilizer and water to them. Three genes control sweetness in corn: Sugary (Su), Sugary Enhancer (Se), and Shrunken (Sh). Newer varieties contain either the Sugary Enhancer (Se) gene, or a combination of the two. You will see the code letters on packets of sweet corn seed or in catalog description that give information about growing each variety: su, se, sh, and sy. Sy is the code letters for hybrid corn varieties. Sugary (Su) (Silver Queen, Stonewell, Evergreen, G90)
  • Has an average level of sugar (8 to 18%) that becomes starch quickly after harvest
  • Both hybrid and open-pollinated types are available
  • It is the traditional type of sweet corn.
  • Some describes sugary corn as having “old-fashioned” flavor.
  • Its kernels are tender and creamy. They can taste chewy as the sugar becomes starch.
  • It is important that you pick these varieties the same day that you plant to each them.
  • Gardeners who want to freeze or can corn typically prefer this type as the flavorful, creamy kernels hold up to processing.
  • Isolate from Shrunken (Sh) and Synergistic (Sy) types.
Sugary Enhanced (Se) (Peaches and Cream, Hone, Ambrosia, Incredible, Kandy Korn, Bodacious, Silver King, Argent)
  • Sugary enhanced has an increased sugar level (30% to 35%), and the kernels are tenderer.
  • The sugar is slower to become starch after the harvest.
  • Fully Sugary Enhanced (Se+) types are even sweeter. They will still be sweet after three or more days in the fridge.
Shrunken (Sh) (Obsession, Avalon, Passion, Devastation)
  • Shrunken have two to three times the amount of sugar (40 to 50%) compared to sugary varieties.
  • They have a crispy texture.
  • They can keep their sweetness for a week in the refrigerator.
  • Some people find shrunken corn lacking in “corn” flavor, and they are less creamy.
  • Seeds are smaller and lighter in weight and look shrunken when dry.
  • Isolate from all other sweet corn types.
  • Cross-pollination between Shrunken (Sh) and any other types will result in starchy, tough kernel.
Synergistic (Sy)
  • They have a combination of sweetness genes.
  • All have at least one Se gene.
  • They may be combined with Sh, Su, or both.
  • These varieties are crisp, very sweet, tender, and creamy.
  • Some also have longer storage life, lasting more than a week in the refrigerator.
  • Sugar content in these types take longer to build up than in sugary enhanced types, and kernels can be too watery if picked too early.



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