how to grow corn in the garden

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Introduction on how to grow corn in the garden

how to grow corn in the gardenGrowing chickens is wonderful. But it can take a good bite out of your budget.

Finding ways to keep the budget small, isn’t always easy. But with chickens, there are several ways to save some money. Instead, you can spend more time to grow their food.

Corn is one of the foods that is a great diet staple for chickens. They can almost live off of corn alone. Of course, one kind of grain is not enough for chickens. But you can start growing corn and spend less money buying it.

Of course, you will have to taste your own grown cobs as well. And maybe you’ll never give any corn to the chickens anymore. Yes, corn cobs are really tasty, also for us humans. And there are several ways you can enjoy the corn.

And corn is not a plant that can only be grown by big farms. You can start a small patch and have a decent harvest after a couple of months.

The corn plant is not difficult to grow if you know how to do it.  That’s why I made this article on how to grow corn in the garden.

what is corn?

grow cornWell, corn or Zea Mays is a vegetable, a fruit, and a whole grain. Corn is considered a vegetable if you eat it on the cob.

But the corn kernel is considered a grain. So you make popcorn from corn grains.

On the other hand, many grains are considered a fruit because they come from the flower of the plant.

Okay, I had to put the above information because I didn’t know it myself. I have never been the person to concern myself with the name of the beast.  I just want to know whether it’s healthy and tastes good or not.

Corn really is a type of grass. But corn cannot be found in nature.

The plant was first grown in America. There they started growing corn from seed. Although one wonders where they found the seeds. Corn doesn’t grow in the wild. So it must have been cultivated for a really long time.

There are three popular types of corn:

  • Sweet corn
  • field corn
  • Indian corn.

how to grow cornSo if you want to know how to grow sweet corn or you want to grow field corn from seed, it’s all the same process.

Knowing how to grow corn from seed, makes you an expert in growing corn in whichever variety you want.

where to grow corn?

grow corn in the gardenCorn has to be grown in blocks and not in single rows.  Whatever kind of corn you grow, corn is always wind-pollinated so it needs to be grown in groups.

The plants like a well-draining, really fertile soil. So make sure you prepare the beds the year before. Give it some good compost or manure. And let it age over the winter.

You can start the seeds directly outdoors about 2 weeks after the last frost.

I have personally found out that this can lead to empty spots that cannot be filled easily. So, I start my corn indoors.

growing corn from seedThe plants can be grown 6 inches apart or 15 centimeters in the row and about 30 inches or 75 centimeters between rows.

Depending on the quality of the soil, you can immediately fertilize when planting.

Because corn is a fast-growing plant, you have to make sure the soil has enough amounts of nutrition in the soil. Or you have to amend with compost or really aged manure.

Make sure the seeds stay moist during germination time. Dried out soil can ruin your plans when growing corn.



When to grow corn?

the soil should be above 60°F or 15°C for corn seed to germinate easily.

So, we start our corn outside about halfway the month of may.

Well, I personally start earlier in the year because I now grow my seeds indoors at least 3 weeks earlier.

No matter where you start your seeds, make sure the soil is warmed up. You can help out the soil by covering it with a black tarp until it has heated up sufficiently before you sow the seeds.

taking care of corn

grow cornThe recommended PH-value of the soil is between 5.8 and 6.2 for corn. The soil may be more alkaline up to 7 but these are the optimal values.

When starting seeds indoors, try to grow them in paper pots or something else that is biodegradable. Corn doesn’t like the roots to be touched. So, it’s better to plant the corn seedling with the pot in its final spot.

Corn is native to warmer climates so it can only be grown when there’s no frost around. Before the first frost in spring and after the last frost in the fall, you’ll lose your plants.

Keep the patches weed free, especially in the beginning. Although corn is a fast-growing crop, it doesn’t like to compete with weeds.

Once it’s tall enough it will shade out most other plants.

transplanting or planting corn

As already mentioned above, the corn plants don’t like to be messed with very much. So try to grow the seedlings in peat pots, cardboard pots or paper pots or something else that will degrade rapidly.

By growing and transplanting this way, you can be sure of a 100% filling of the space.

Make sure you harden off the plants before transplanting or you could lose a number of plants in the process. This would leave you with just the same problem as sowing in the ground.

harvesting corn

When to pick the corn cobs?

harvesting cornThere is a learning process in picking corn of the stalks just at the right time.

The corn will be ready after about 20 days after the silk appears. You can harvest the cobs once the silk turns brown and the husks are still green.

If you leave the cobs for too long to ripen, the grains will become starchy and really hard.

How to pick corn?

Just grab the corn cob and pull it down, you can give it a twist and pull it until it brakes off. The process should be quite easy, even if it’s your first time.

If you want to eat it while it’s fresh, just pull off what you need for the day and leave the rest hanging for the next day. Just make sure you don’t wait too long.

You can cut off the stalks as soon as you harvested the last cob. I personally cut the stalks into small pieces of about 4 inches or 10 centimeters before I put them in my compost.

Storing freshly picked corn

The freshly picked corn loses its freshness really rapidly. In less than a week, the sugars will turn into starches. That’s how store-bought cobs taste like.

It’s best to keep the cobs in the fridge or put them in the freezer if you plan to keep them longer.

diseases and pests while growing corn

Bacterium Pantoea or Stewart’s Bacterial Wilt

growing corn diseases
By Frank Peairs – This image is Image Number 1481166 at Forestry Images, a source for forest health, natural resources and silviculture images operated by The Bugwood Network at the University of Georgia and the USDA Forest Service., CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3763591

Stewart’s Bacterial Wilt or bacterium Pantoea stewartii is harmful to young, tender plants.

The plants will start to wilt and the plant will be stunted for its entire growth. The leaves will have brown lines and the edges will be curly and wiggly.

The corn flea beetle is the reason you get this infection because the disease survives inside the beetle.

You’ll have to use crop rotation and try to use resistant varieties. Most of all, you’ll have to control the corn flea beetle population.

Corn smut

how to grow corn in the garden
By Jamain – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30351352

The disease is caused by a soil fungus. It can infect corn no matter where it’s growing.  The pathogenic fungus causing corn smut is Ustilago Maydis.

It is however not a disastrous condition. Because smut is edible and even sought after by chefs, it can be a benefit.

In the early stages of the infection “gall” will appear on the corn ear or tassel. These galls are gray spongy growths.

When the galls turn black and burs op, the disease is spread among the rest of the corn plants. The disease needs really warm and dry weather to thrive. And it will, in most cases, only infect the weak and harmed stalks of corn.

To stop the disease, just pick off the unripe galls and burn them before they turn black and burst. the infected plants will stay infected but you can keep it from spreading and growing the next season.

Fusarium Root rot

Root rot is not only common in corn, many plants get in trouble with this disease. The fungus is a soil-based fungus and makes the roots rot away, stunting the plant and eventually killing it.

Make sure you don’t plant corn in soggy soil and use raised bed if there’s a soil drainage problem. Also, make sure the soil temperature is high enough before you start sowing the seeds.

Use crop rotation whenever you can and try to find healthy seed.

The corn earworm or Helicoverpa zea

how to grow corn from seed disease
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Although this worm can be found in tropical areas only, I still want to talk about this small animal. It’s one of the examples how insects can adapt and get resistant to insecticides. The small moth is capable of destroying big amounts of crops and is really difficult to manage.

The caterpillar will first munch away the silks and it will then start eating the grains at the top of the ears. By eating the silks first, it can prevent pollination.

The munching also leaves wounds that are prone to disease attacks.

Normally Bacillus Thuringiensis should stop these critters.

Corn Root Aphids or Anuraphis maidi radicis

These aphids literally overwinter in the nests of the cornfield ants.

Once a plant gets infested, the plant will turn yellow and be stunted.

Trying to eradicate the ants is one way to get rid of the aphids. So, sometimes, plowing can be a good thing.

If you have just a small patch of corn, you can destroy the nests by getting the soil waterlogged on a warm day when you know the soil will dry out fast after spraying.

Corn Sap Beetle or dusky sap beetle or Carpophilus lugubris Murray

The young of these beetles look like maggots. They eat holes into the grains of the corn. These beetles are attracted to the scent of damaged corn. So you should prevent the munching on the corn so you can avoid these small critters.

Also, clean up any residue at the end of the growing season as these beetles will find a place to overwinter and hunt you the next year.

The European corn borer or Ostrinia nubilalis

growing corn
By Keith Weller – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, with the ID k7834-3 (next).This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.English | français | македонски | +/−, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1876649

Native to Europe, this 1 inch long brown caterpillar with dark brown spots can be devastating to the corn plants. The caterpillar munches holes into the stalks as well as the ears. It bores itself into the plant, weakening the plant and making the ears inedible.

One way this pest is treated is with Bacillus Thuringiensis. Treat the plants when the silk is just starting to grow out. Check the plants thoroughly and cut out any caterpillars that are already inside the stalks.

This critter will survive in the debris left after the season. So try to till in or remove all debris possible and hot compost it.

 Closing on how to grow corn in the garden

I did not mention all the diseases but just the most common ones I found.

If I come into contact with another disease and I find enough information about it, I will amend this article.

So this is it for this article on how to grow corn in the garden. I hope you’ve found it interesting. If so, please share on social media, with friends, and other gardeners.

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Thanks for reading and see you in the next post.

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