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fresh corn vegetable with green leaves

Sweet corn is a favorite summertime treat, but the plants do require some attention to produce a good yield of delicious ears.

With summer in full swing, the sweet corn is starting to put on some growth. Sweet corn is a favorite summertime treat, but the plants do require some attention to produce a good yield of delicious ears. However, if you plant new varieties that hold their sweetness longer after harvest, and stay on top of watering, fertilizing, and weeding, you can have a great backyard crop of corn for roasting, grilling, or simply steaming. Here are some tips to grow a great crop of sweet corn:

Choose the right variety. While many gardeners have already planted their corn, it’s not too late to seed a crop now. Look for fast-maturing varieties such as ‘Sugar Buns’, ‘Sugar Pearl’, and ‘Spring Treat’. These varieties mature in less than seventy days after seeding. These sugar-enhanced (se) varieties grow better in cool soil conditions than supersweet varieties. But if you want to grow the supersweet varieties (sh2), try ‘X-Tra Tender’, which matures early. Just keep the sugar-enhanced and supersweet varieties separated by about 250 feet so they don’t cross-pollinate each other.

Plant in warm, fertile soil. The advantage of planting a little later, especially for northern gardeners, is that the soil is warmer. Sweet corn germinates best in warm, moist, fertile soil. Seed in at least four short rows on compost-amended soil. Corn pollinates the ears better if grown in short blocks.

Use fertilizer. Even with compost-amended soil, sweet corn loves to grow fast. It needs extra nitrogen fertilizer during the growing season to grow its best. Add an extra dose of soybean or alfalfa meal when the corn stalks are knee-high and again when they start to form ears.

Hill the rows. Most corn varieties grow 5 to 7 feet tall. When planted in rows, they’re liable to blow over, especially during a summer thunderstorm. To lessen the chance of lodging, hill up the rows when the plants are at least 8 inches tall.

Add mulch. Corn also needs water to grow well. Add a layer of straw or hay mulch to the rows after hilling to conserve soil moisture and prevent weed growth.