Category Archives: Corn

Popcorn – You Can Grow That!

how to grow popcorn

So much of the corn being grown in the US is now genetically engineered by crossing it with e. coli, then doused heavily with pesticides.

Although you can find organic alternatives, if you have the room you can grow quite a lot of popcorn. Just 10 plants can yield anywhere from 4000-12000 kernels, in only an area about 12″ x 30″.

Choose a variety that is recommended for popping, here are a few to look at.

Grow like you would sweet corn, just don’t harvest as soon. Let the corn stay on the stalk until the plant starts to die off, or the ears begin to fall over. Leave in the husk to dry for about a week. The longer it dries the easier it is to get the kernels off, simply by pushing on them with your thumb. You can make it even simpler by twisting the cob or breaking it in half.

When the kernels are completely dry, just store in a food grade container.

How you pop it is up to you. It can be done in the microwave, but we prefer the old fashioned stove top method of popping it in just a little oil in a covered pot on med-high heat.

And just to be on the safe side, we also have a really old popcorn popper that can be used over an open flame, back from the days before Jiffy Pop and Monsanto; you know, when corn was just corn.

you can grow that

You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world to encourage others to grow something. Click on the logo above to read many more such posts.
Garden on!


How Much Room Does Corn Need to Grow?

growing corn

My husband decided to be more involved in the garden this year, beyond just the grunt work.
The idea was to work together and grow less variety of plants, but enough of each to last a year.
So at the planning stage he gave his opinion about growing one of our favorites, sweet corn.

“It takes up too much room,” he said, “grow something else and we’ll just buy corn from the farmer.”

Okay, sounds like a plan.

So he added the manure to the beds and I planted the seeds and seedlings. When all was finished there was one bed left.

This was an opportunity to plant something I have always wanted to, dry corn.
Corn meal, polenta, grits; things we never were able to make from homegrown before we will get a shot at this fall.

Yesterday we did pick up about 10 dozen sweet ears from our local corn farmer, and proceeded to remove the kernels and process it.
It took a few hours, and the conversation led to the question of how much room it would take to grow that amount of sweet corn ourselves.

So I took him into the garden and showed him the corn bed.
In a 4 ft by 10 ft bed, there are 14 rows of corn with 4 or 5 stalks in each row.

Not to mention the beans and squash growing below.

“Most sweet corn will produce 2 ears per stalk,” I told him, “this is all the room we would need.”

“Oh, I thought it took a lot more space. Next year we should grow our own corn.”

“Hmm…” I thought, “let’s see first how much better the polenta tastes.”

How to Prevent Cross Pollination of Corn

how to prevent cross pollination of corn

A wee bit of crossing.

Corn silks get pollen on them that is carried by the wind from the tassels of corn in the area. It may be from the same plant or from plants a distance away.

If you are growing multiple kinds of corn, or a nearby neighbor has plants, you may want to insure you get what you expect.
There are a few ways to do this.

If it is just you growing more than one variety, time the seeding so that they don’t mature at the same time. If both varieties mature at 90 days, for example, plant them about 2-3 weeks apart.
If one variety matures at 80 days and the other at 100, it is safe to plant them at the same time.

If you have a lot of land, you can simply plant them apart. I have read they need to be anywhere from 150 ft. to a mile apart. The corn in the picture above were about 6 ft. apart and generally upwind from a red dry corn. You can see there was a little cross pollination on the ear to the right, but it did take place.

If you are really into maintaining your seed supply to be true by preventing cross pollination, watch this video to learn how.
We’re going to do this with our glass gem corn, to keep the seeds pure. There is a bed of dry corn about 120 ft. away, and we want to be sure they don’t cross.

And, well… also because nerdy stuff like this is fun.

When Geeks Garden – The Corn Harvest

There are some gardeners I know that would be considered ‘uber’ geeks.
You know who you are.
In fact, I’m borrowing that expression from one of them.

Although I’m not quite that advanced, there are things I do that makes my husband shake his head and giggle.

Born On date.

‘Born On’ date.

“Why are there dates written on some of the corn leaves?” he asked me last evening as we toured the garden to check the progress.
“That’s the date I first saw the silks appear” was my response.

I could tell that wasn’t enough information.

“The Johnny’s Seeds Catalog suggests that about 18-24 days after the silks appear, the corn will be ready. Since I planted a few different kinds I needed a way to know when to start checking them to see if there is a milky substance in the ears. Then we’ll know when to pick it.”

Will this one be first?

Will this one be first?

He laughed, “I’m surprised you didn’t write that date on the leaves instead.”

He thinks he’s funny.
Just wait until he turns his calender to August. :-)



7 Easy Tips for Growing Better Corn

1. Corn likes fish.
Corn grows best with a lot of nitrogen and phosphorous in the soil, something that fish provide.
You can use old freezer burned fish. Just put one small piece in each hole before the seed.

If animals have access to your garden, you may want to use a fish emulsion instead. You can buy some premade or whip up your own.

A little fish with the corn seed goes a long way.

A little fish with the corn seed goes a long way.

2. Corn is up close and personal.
Since corn is wind pollinated, and the tassels from one plant can easily fertilize another, planting them close together will help your get fuller ears.

Most seed packets recommend spacing seeds 8-12″ apart.
We lean to the closer figure on this one. As it turns out, 8″ is about the width of my out-stretched hand.
That sure makes spacing easy.

homegrown corn is safe to enjoy

A wee bit of cross-pollination of corn.

3. Corn is light on it’s feet.
As tall as corn stalks get, they grow surprisingly shallow roots. A heavy wind can take them down, but it is easy enough to prop them back up. Again, planting them close together helps.

corn stalks hit with heavy rains

Down but not out.

4. Corn likes to hang with its homies.
You have probably heard of the Three Sisters of the Field, namely corn, beans and squash. The real reason these plants were planted together is info for a post of it’s own. For now, planting bush beans in between corn plants will add additional nitrogen to the soil.

Likewise, low to the ground growing squash plants can take up space at corn’s feet that might otherwise be used by weeds.
We love companion planting and inter-cropping to get more food from the garden.

5. Corn likes a little lunch.
When you see the tassels first appear, side-dress your corn with some good compost and some composted manure.

6. Corn likes to grow incognito.
Corn husks make it difficult to know when the corn is ready to eat. Many gardeners will tell you to press your fingernail into a corn kernel, if the liquid that comes out is ‘milky’ the corn is ready. Also, the silks turning brown is another indicator.

We learned another trick from Johnny’s Select Seeds catalog: Corn is ready to eat about 18-24 days after you first see the silks.

homegrown corn is safe to enjoy

Ready to enjoy.

7. Corn won’t stick around.
Once corn is ready, it’s important to harvest and eat or preserve it asap. The reason is that the milk inside the corn kernels quickly turns starchy, ruining the sweet flavor.

There are now a number of hybrids available that can hold their sweet flavor longer. This is great news for busy gardeners!

How to Grow Corn (the video)

How to Grow -Broomcorn

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just grow your own Autumn decorations, and have no need for something made in a factory far, far away?

Ornamental gourds are one good way, as well as pumpkins and decorative corn stalks.
Here’s another you may not have tried:

broomcorn in the home garden

Look up, way up.

Also known as ‘sorghum’ broomcorn is planted the same way as sweet corn.
One difference you’ll easily see is that the broomcorn can get to be 10 ft. tall and more.
It also does not form ears, but is grown for its beautiful ‘straw’ which can be used in floral arrangements, wreaths and other decorations, or to make brooms.

When the stalks are ready to harvest they may bend down like this one, or you can wait for them to turn brown.

broomcorn stalks falling over when ready

Pick me pick me!

Hanging them upside down will help the straw to dry a little straighter.
You can then remove the seeds to keep for next year or leave attached for the pretty colors.

growing broomcorn for floral arrangements

How pretty.

This is our first time growing sorghum, and we’re thinking perhaps we’ll hang it on the front of the house with some smaller ears of colorful corn.

decorative or edible corn

What the squirrels missed.

Next year we want to try to grow enough to make a broom; which can of course, double as a Halloween Costume accessory.
Maybe not for Mandolin though.

broomcorn aka sorghum seeds

Mixed colors.

Botanical name: Sorghum bicolor
Days to maturity: long, about 4 months
Spacing: 8-12″
Yield: One stalk per seed planted
Height: 10 ft. or more
Harvest: When stalks dry or bend over
Storage: dry completely or use fresh and discard
Seed: annual heirloom
Tip: Fish fertilizer helps corn and broomcorn grow healthier.

Broomcorn? Yeah…
you can grow that

How to Grow – Corn

how to grow corn

Here they come.

All Corn is grown the same way regardless of what kind it is, here’s how:

Make holes 1 inch deep and 8 inches apart, in blocks or squares; think of the number 5 on a die.
Put a tiny piece of fish in each hole, then the seed. Cover with soil and water lightly.
Keep the soil moist until the seedlings pop through.

If you want fresh corn for a longer period of time, make successive plantings every few weeks.

Plant some winter squash and pole beans in the same area. These plants, known as the Three Sisters of the Field help each other.
The stalks support the beans, the beans in turn add nitrogen to the soil.
The vining squash help deter deer.

When about half of your crop is producing silks, you are about 2-3 weeks away from fresh eating.

Corn is wind pollinated, you can help out by giving the corn stalks a little shake.
Since the corn will pollinate itself and/or other ears, you should separate different kinds of corn, for example, sweet and decorative corn, from each other.

how to grow corn

tell-tale silks

When you see the silks have turned reddish brown, it’s a sure sign your corn has been pollinated.

Corn grows very shallow and can easily be blown over.
Simply prop it back up and firm some more soil around the roots.

how to grow corn

hybrid baby corn

Botanical name: Zea mays
Yield: Each seed will produce 1 stalk which will yield 1-2 ears. Baby corn stalks produce many tiny ears.
Spacing: 8″
Days to maturity: 65-75 for sweet corn, 100 or so for dry
Harvest: Sweet corn when the kernels produce a milky substance when cut, dry corn at the end of the season
Storage: Sweet corn pressure canned or frozen, dry corn remove from cob and store on the shelf.

Mandolin’s favorite way to cook corn is to wrap it in tin foil, adding a little beer for moisture.
Seal and grill. While you wait, drink the rest of the beer.

Be sure to have plenty of napkins. ;-) And plenty of beer.
The YouTube Video

Sweet Baby Corn

We don’t eat a lot of corn on the cob in the Jones household, and the fact that there are so many farms in our area that grow it
-making it easy to get-
I don’t waste my garden space on it.

We do eat a lot of vegetable stir fry though, so I grow ‘baby corn’.

You need to buy seeds specific for this type of corn, these were purchased from Seeds of Change.

Chires Baby Corn

organic seeds

Growing conditions are the same as any corn, some tips include: planting a little piece of fish with each seed, plant in ‘box of 3×3’ or ‘groups’ rather than a row -this is because corn is wind pollinated and will be more likely to get pollinated if not in a row.

baby corn

stalks 2 weeks before picking

The stalks will get to be 4-6 feet high, and harvesting begins about 5 days after you first see the silks.
You can get 6-12 ears per stalk, some plants grow multiple stalks.
Even after you start picking, more ears develop below. So don’t pull out the stalk too soon.

baby corn on the stalk

ready to pick

You shuck the corn the same way as regular corn, except that you need to be careful not to break the little buggers.

baby corn

preshuck, midshuck, shucked

baby corn size

with roma tomato

I used to freeze the corn, but Mandolin likes to have his stir fry ingredients handy (and not have to rummage through the freezer).
So instead I throw them into large canning jars, cover with pickling liquid, and refrigerate.

baby corn cobs

jar #1

An interesting note I just discovered today. You can let the corn stay on the stalk for an extra 7 weeks, then pick, shuck and cut off the cob for popping corn.

Now you know I’ll have to try that!

More info on harvesting your veggies

Note 9/29
After thinking about comment below, I made the second batch using ‎a 1/2 gal. canning jar filled with fresh baby corn and 1.5 oz sliced ginger (1/2 jar). I dissolved 3 cup sugar, 3/4 cup cannng salt, in 5 cup white vinegar over heat. Let cool, poured over corn. I like this one better for snacking, Mandolin likes them both for cooking stir fry.

baby corn preserving

jar #2