Planting Guide and Seed Saving Notes for Corn

Planting Guide and Seed Saving Notes for Corn

Corn (zea mays)

This versatile grain, dating back to 2,500 BCE, was first domesticated in Central America, and is now the most grown crop in the United States. Unfortunately, this botanical stalwart is being threatened; approximately 90% of the corn produced in the Untied States is GMO, most of that used for animal feed and ethanol for fuel. Because corn is wind pollinated, there is a high risk of cross pollination from up-wind GMO crops with our open-pollinated and heirloom varieties. To protect our corn, we go to great lengths to support and educate our growers about appropriate isolation distances and seed saving techniques (seed saving notes below).

Dent Corn

Dent corn is one of the oldest types of cultivated corn, it is so named for the dent in the middle of each kernel, formed when the soft starch dries. Excellent dried for milling, especially as grits, or to curry favor with a chicken flock. Dent corn is also edible when young and fresh, although not as sweet as more common sweet corn varieties. To harvest, let ears dry on stalk and pick after a light frost if possible. Store in mouse proof containers for the winter. 

Popcorn

Yes! Grow your own popcorn and bring joy to everyone! Corn varieties suited to popcorn have a waterproof hull and dense starchy interior. Leave ears on stalks until fully dried if possible. To prepare, break dried kernels off the husk with your hand and pop as usual.

Sweet Corn

Selected for high sugar content when fresh, this type of corn is best eaten the day it is harvested on the cob or fresh in salads. Harvest when kernels are filled in and milky.

How to Grow Corn from Seed

Bed Preparation

Corn is a frost sensitive annual that prefers full sun and is tolerant of a wide variety of soils. Corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder, so planting in beds which previously contained nitrogen-fixing crops such as beans, peas, etc. can give plants a boost.

Planting

Corn does not transplant well, so direct-seed outdoors once the danger of frost has passed and soil temperatures have warmed to 60˚ F. Plant seeds ½-1" deep and 2-3" apart in rows 18-24"apart. Thin seedlings so that mature plants are 3" apart. The rule of thumb is to grow at least four 10' rows to assist its pollination by wind.

To extend your harvest, sow an early-maturing type every 2 weeks for 6 weeks, or plant early, mid-season, and late types at the same time. Corn is traditionally planted with bean and winter squash, a trio known as the 3 sisters.

Harvest

For sweet corn, harvest when kernels have filled in and contain milk. To check ripeness, peel back husk and pierce a kernel to see evidence of the milky liquid. For dent and popcorn, allow to dry on stalk and harvest around 1st frost.

How to save Corn Seeds

Corn is monoecious plant, meaning it has separate male (tassel) and female (ears)parts on each plant. Select the earliest and fullest cobs on each plant for seed saving. If you are unsure if how much space is between you and your next possible corn growing neighbor, cover the tassel and ears with bags to protect from cross-pollination. Allow the ears to develop and dry out on the stalk for as long as possible. When ready to dry, pull back the husks and place in a rodent-proof area. Once fully dried, carefully break off the seeds and store in a cool, dry place.