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Corn Growing Tips

corn

I’m attempting to grow corn for the first time this year. Corn is a bit of a gamble in Seattle because we don’t exactly have hot summers or soil that warms up quickly in spring.  What we do have is a thriving population of corn-snatching urban raccoons.

I decided to hedge my bets and sent an email to Bruce Swee, who I used to garden next to at the Interbay P-Patch. Bruce is a seasoned corn grower and he kindly shared some very helpful tips that he learned over the years from another Interbay gardener, Fred Nollan. Even if you don’t garden in the Pacific Northwest, this is great advice!

corn_sprouted

1.    Build Rich Soil. I dug in a 2-inch layer of compost into my soil and then followed Bruce and Fred’s recommendation of working in a good granulated fish fertilizer into the soil before planting.
2. Pre-sprout the seeds. Corn likes to germinate in warm soil, so Bruce recommended pre-sprouting the seeds before planting them, because once the seeds sprout they can handle cooler conditions. He sprouts his by soaking them in water. I sprinkled my seeds on to a paper napkin, soaked the napkin in water, and then stuck it in a plastic bag. They formed roots in just 2 days!
3.    Plant in a furrow. Gently place the sprouted seeds in the bottom of a 4 to 6 inch deep furrow, space them about 3 inches apart. Cover the seeds with an inch of soil, water them in well, and then place clear plastic over the top of the furrows (the plastic should be 1 to 2 inches above the seeds). Bruce and Fred recommend the plastic because it builds heat and humidity around the germinating seeds. They leave the plastic in place until the seedlings are well-established (just don’t forget to water under there), then they pull it off. As the corn grows, you can backfill the furrow with soil to help support the plants. You will also need to thin the seedlings to about 8 inches apart.
4.    Hand-pollinate. Bruce says its best to pollinate by hand if, like me, you are only growing one or two rows of corn. When the corn’s tassels begin to shed pollen, cut off a tassel or two and brush them against the silks on each ear, making sure that you get plenty of pollen on the silks.
5.    Install Critter Protection. Bruce and Fred protect their ears of corn from sneaky  raccoons, rats, and possums by placing what they call a Corn Cozy over each ear. A Corn Cozy is basically a cob shaped sleeve made of ¼ inch hardware cloth that they slip over each ear when they are close to maturity.

I just got my pre-sprouted seeds in the ground last evening. I’ll report back on their progress throughout this growing season!

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19 Responses to “Corn Growing Tips”

  1. 1
    Grace Says:

    Dear Willi,

    I planted Seeds of Change “Triple Play” corn on April 27th. It has a DTGerm of 10 days and a DTM of about 70 days, so theoretically it should be ready to harvest by mid-late July (but it’s supposed to be only “knee-high by the 4th of July?). It is currently about 6″ high in very soft fertile soil. I goofed and planted on top of the ridge, but as I water, the furrows have been filled in, so I guess it has self-corrected. I planted in 10″ rows, about 3″ apart and had VERY good germination, so I have continued weeding the bed to the west and have thinned the original sowing to 10″ centers and transplanted the thinnings into new rows. Pictures if you want them.

    Best wishes,
    Grace

    p.s. Thanks to JoyW and the seed-recipe exchange, I have arugula growing!

  2. 2
    sonrie Says:

    We are growing corn this year, for the first time (in our first garden), and so far it is doing well. Thanks for these tips!

  3. 3
    gardenmentor Says:

    We had fantastic corn results last year in Seattle: http://www.gardenhelp.org/food/growing_corn_in_seattle/. I began with starts.

    This year, we’re using a different bed (crop rotation!)We started seed indoors quite a while back and have created a 3-sisters garden with them this year.

    Our biggest tip: plant enough for good pollination. Plant in a breezy spot for good pollination. Plant in hot, hot sun. Watch out for those darn squirrels and rats. If they start nibbling, you better start harvesting!

    Good luck :)

  4. 4
    Amber Says:

    Where would one find Corn Cozies?

  5. 5
    Willi Says:

    Amber–Bruce and Fred make their corn cozies by basically creating a corn cob sized cylinder out of hardware cloth. They slip it over the cob (the end near the silks is crimped closed).

    Robin–Thanks for sharing the link! I hope my corn turns out as well as yours. It is in hot, hot sun right against the house.

    Sonrie–Thanks for the good wishes. I send the same to your corn!

    Grace–I’d love to see pictures. And so glad that you have arugula growing from Joy. Did you know she designed DigginFood? She’s the best!

  6. 6
    Amanda Says:

    I’m also growing corn for the first time this year. The three sisters way. Wish I had read about pre-sprouting before we planted (twice!). Second time was a charm, though. We got probably 90% germination in the second round. Any suggestions for dealing with rabbits? They keep shearing off my lovely leaves.

  7. 7
    Robin W. Says:

    I’ve been growing corn in the Kitsap County area (Bremerton) on the north side of Green Mountain for about six years.
    I’ve had GREAT success in having a corn field with over 300 plants. We just pre-plant the seeds in good soil in several large pots and when the corn gets about 4 – 6 inches high, plant in the garden.
    I make sure to plant as much root as possible in a trench and we absolutely LOVE it.
    There is absolutely nothing better than fresh corn on the cob. When we’ve eaten as much corn as we can stand, I blanch the rest of the corn, remove the corn from the cob and freeze it for the winter. It is wonderful to have fresh-frozen corn all year long!
    Good luck with your corn this year, Willie!

    P.S. – I do have a question regarding arugula. You said several weeks ago on KUOW that if you plant (is it arugula?????) in your garden, it will come back year after year?? Was it arugula or something else?

    Thanks!

  8. 8
    la marquise des anges Says:

    I used to work in a organic farm when I was (WAY) younger …it was in summer time to earn some money … and we hand pollinated corns for hours :)

  9. 9
    Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. Says:

    wow, I would LOVE to grow corn. And it’ll make my son so happy. It’s our favorite thing to eat in the summer, and with all the genetically modified corn that’s bing sold all around I look at every cob with a suspicious eye. I’ll def remember this for next year. We have just started our first raised bed ever! Thanks for the inspiration! We have lots of herbs (more htne ever), lettuces, arugula, tomaotes, strawberries. It’s great.
    (By the way, not to be pushy, but did you see my e-mail about the bloggers’ get together party?)

  10. 10
    Sandy Says:

    I’m trying corn for the first time this year as well. Here’s hoping we both find some success with this tricky crop for our region.

  11. 11
    Audrey Says:

    Thanks for the great tips. I am growing corn for the second time this summer. Last year, I didn’t have the greatest results. But this year I planted more rows and in a sunnier spot. I wish I knew the furrow tip, though. Dang. I guess I’ll just have to pile dirt up a bit higher. And that corn cozy tip sounds perfect, as does the hand-polination technique. We have a serious raccoon problem, so we may need those cozies. I’ve also heard that growing squash in and around your corn keeps raccoons away because they don’t like the bushy, viney undergrowth.

  12. 12
    Willi Says:

    Audrey–I’ve heard about the squash tip, too! I just found a zucchini growing in front of my corn, so I’m going to leave it!

  13. 13
    Homegrown Popcorn | DigginFood Says:

    [...] said, I really wanted to grow corn this year and I decided on popcorn, because I figured it wouldn’t be a huge loss if the popcorn [...]

  14. 14
    Growing Green in Helena, MT | Seattle Seedling Says:

    [...] corn. My dad would love it if I grew corn. I might try sometime, but if I understand it right, corn can be a little difficult to grow in our Seattle climate. Plus, you need to grow more than one [...]

  15. 15
    Laila Says:

    This is the first time i grow corn …why is the top hair purple ?

  16. 16
    Christine Says:

    My little girl brought corn seedlings home from school the other day and I have no clue on how to plant them or if the will even grow here. We live in Sydney NS and the soil is great for sprouting unwanted trees but not sure about corn. Got a few tips from the previous posts. I put the seedlings in a planter in my dining room until the weather gets warmer.I’m hoping everything works out.

  17. 17
    Muerte Says:

    We planted roughly 8 rows, 7 plants each, at 14in between plants, in a month we will be planting green beans in between them

  18. 18
    Protecting Corn From Squirrels, Birds, and Other Evil Scavengers | planningforsun Says:

    [...] of the websites that I perused offered a simpler, less dangerous suggestion: when the cobs near maturity, slip a [...]

  19. 19
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