Planting Corn

Texas Honey June open-pollinated sweet corn

What a gorgeous day for planting corn it was yesterday! In the 70’s with a breeze blowing and a few fluffy clouds wandering across the sun. It was so nice I got my entire first planting of corn in in one day, even though it meant digging compost and fertilizer into almost 200 sq. ft. of garden (192 to be exact!). I had a moment of panic when I went to mix some more fertilizer and found that my bag of soybean meal was getting mighty light. It turned out, though, that the meal I had left was enough to make exactly the amount of fertilizer I needed for the corn. So, in the end, everything got done!

I’m planting four varieties of corn this year, two more than last summer. They’re all available from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. In this first sowing of the season, about half of what I put in the ground was Early Sunglow. It’s an extra-early hybrid that’s only 64 days to maturity. The Silver Queen hybrid will be almost four weeks behind it (and the Texas Honey June a week behind that), so I needed enough Early Sunglow to give us some good eatin’ in those first four weeks, when we’re going to be overjoyed to have fresh sweet corn again!

I planted about a third as much of Silver Queen and Texas Honey June, since by the time we’re eating these, we’ll have three varieties of corn to choose from. (I’ll plant a little more Early Sunglow in a few weeks to ripen alongside them.) Silver Queen is a hybrid I grew last year. It had no problems and nice, full ears. Texas Honey June also grew really well. It’s an heirloom open-pollinated corn. It’s not as sweet as hybrid sweet corn, but it has more protein, and you can tell when you eat it. It just tastes meatier. I wasn’t sure what I thought of it at first, because it was different from what I was used to, but over the winter, I actually found myself getting hungry for it. So I think it’s probably more nutritious than hybrid corn, and my body knows it. I’m going to keep growing it and maybe add another open-pollinated variety next year.

Finally, I planted a block of popcorn: Pennsylvania Butter-Flavored, a Pennsylvania Dutch heirloom. I’m looking forward to having this as a snack next winter!

My calculations for spacing and placement of my different varieties got a little complicated, as you’ll see from the diagram below. (The whole plot is 8′ by 24′.)

Really, there were only two things I was trying to keep in mind. First, the Early Sunglow needed less space per plant than the others, since it’s an earlier and thus smaller variety. I’ve seen it suggested to plant Early Sunglow 10″ apart in rows 30″ apart, and other varieties 12″ apart in rows 36″ apart. Well, to make things easier on myself, I decided to make all the rows the same width–32″–and then vary the spacing within the rows in order to give the different varieties more or less space. So Early Sunglow ended up being planted 9″ apart in rows 32″ apart, and the others 12″ apart in rows 32″ apart. I probably should have given the latter 13″ each, but I was too lazy. It’s so easy to plant things 1′ apart.

The other thing I was worrying about was planting simultaneously maturing corn in blocks so they’d get good pollination. Instead of running one long row of Early Sunglow across the garden, I wanted three short rows right next to each other, so wind pollination will be more effective and the ears will be full. (Each unpollinated silk is a missing kernel!) The same for the popcorn and the later-maturing sweet corns. The hole at the top of the diagram is a space I left for a later planting of Early Sunglow, which should develop tassels around the same time as the Silver Queen and the Texas Honey June I just planted, so they can all pollinate each other.

Once I had the planting plan figured out, I spread the compost (1/4″-1/2″ thick, or about 3 40-lb. bags for every 100 sq. ft.) and organic fertilizer (5 qts. per 100 sq. ft.) and dug it all in. Then I marked the rows with string, laid out a measuring tape alongside, and started putting the kernels in the ground, 1-2″ deep, depending on size. I put two seeds in each spot where I want to have a mature plant. Then I watered thoroughly.

And that’s it for now! On to thinking about peppers, beans, and squash. And stocking up on fertilizer ingredients…

4 Comments Add yours

  1. kate says:

    Oh, how I wish I had space to grow corn!

  2. Lauren says:

    Yes, if only I had the space! We tried corn in a 4 x 8 garden box one year… not so much. Oh well — someday!

  3. Amy J Burton says:

    I grew 10 plants last year. Going to try again hoping for more sunshine this year though! So jealous of the amount of space you have

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