Heirloom Corn Plants | Plant Starts & Seedlings

Native to North and South America, corn, or maize was cultivated some 4,000 years before Columbus first set foot in the New World. Today home gardeners know that the flavor of a fresh picked ear delivered directly to a pot of boiling water is worth all the effort, fertilizer and space required for growing corn.

Corn, like sunflowers, make a great backdrop to any garden. This popular plant has probably inspired more home gardens than any other vegetable. Corn is a worthwhile vegetable for any garden, and fresh corn on the cob is delicious!

Plant corn in the northern part of your garden (or any location that does not block the sun for other plants) after all danger of frost is past in well-fertilized soil. Corn may need additional water to make quality ears during a dry summer. Very hot weather can also have a negative effect on pollination of corn. For a continuous crop, stagger plantings a few weeks apart or choose corn varieties with different maturities.

Site Preparation:
Corn requires full sun, ample water and deep rich soil to perform well. Prepare the planting site by working in generous amounts of compost. Corn needs to be well protected from frost.

Tip: Cover the growing area with plastic for two to four weeks prior to planting to warm the soil.

How to Plant:
Corn seed should be planted directly into the soil after it has warmed in the spring (two weeks after your average last-frost date). Sow corn seed 3-4” apart and about ½-1” deep in rows 24-32” apart. Corn is a heavy feeder. Fertilize with 1/2 strength high nitrogen fertilizer until tassels develop. Make sure that the entire root zone is damp as corn ears mature.

Corn is wind pollinated, so it must be planted in a block of several rows for even pollination. Thin the corn seedlings to 10-12” as ears will be greatly reduced in size or not form at all on crowded plants. Ornamental corn must be isolated from sweet corn. Planting corn in cool soil will set back seedlings, especially if a frost is still possible. Best to plant corn when the soil has warmed to 21-24&degC (70-75°F). Plant a new crop every two weeks to ensure harvest throughout the growing season. Plant several different varieties of varying maturities to ensure a longer season of harvest.

Tip: Water at the base. Soaking the leaves rather than the roots washes away pollen, and reduces the number of kernels that develop.

Bush bean, beet, cabbage, cantaloupe, cucumber, parsley, pea, early potato, pumpkin, squash.

Full sun is required. Corn is a heavy feeder and requires fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0-6.5. Prepare the soil by working in well-rotted manure or other organic matter. A side dressing of nitrogen, applied when corn plants are about knee high, will give corn an added boost in growth. Try bloodmeal, partially rotted manure or a liquid fertilizer. Corn needs plenty of moisture. Hill soil around the base of the plant when they are 6” high. This will help to anchor the plants and keep the roots covered and cool. Use a mulch to keep down weeds and conserve moisture.

Corn is ready when the ears are completely filled and a pierced kernel shows a milky white liquid. A good sign of corn cob readiness is when the silk turns brown and crisp.


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