December 2 2010 12:48
Who here loves sweet corn? I do. I grow my own corn in my garden every year and thought I’d share some tips and information I’ve picked up over the years. Corn is one of the only vegetables I know of that the hybrids far exceed the heirloom varieties in flavor. There are 5 main classifications of sweet corn varieties, Heirloom, Regular Sweet Hybrids, Sugar Enhanced (S.E.), Super Sweet and Triple Sweet.
Heirloom or open pollinated corns are sweet with an old fashioned corn flavor but does not hold the sweetness long after picking. If you grow this type of corn it’s best to start your water boiling before you head out to the garden to pick, shuck it on the way back to the house and drop it in the water. It will loose its sweetness mere hours after picking.
Regular Sweets have a traditional old fashioned corn flavor without an emphasis on sweetness. These varieties also do not hold flavor long. Both Heirloom and Regular Sweet must be separated from other types of corn by at least 25 feet to prevent cross pollination.
Sugar Enhanced are sweeter than regular strains and hold their flavor for about a week after harvesting. S.E also does not require isolation from other corn varieties
Super Sweets are bred for twice the sweetness of regular corn and will hold that sweetness for up to 2 weeks but must be isolated from other types by at least 200 feet or at least 14 days planting time.
Last but certainly not least, my favorite, Triple Sweet, the cream of the crop. Triple Sweets are superbly sweet but are bred to hold more of the original corn flavor and will keep after harvest for 3 weeks or more!! No isolation required.
I’ve tried many varieties of corn over the years and though I still love my Silver Queen (Regular Sweet white kernel) my new fav is a Triple Sweet called Honey Select. I’ve grown it the last 4 years. I don’t have a huge garden and corn takes up a lot of room so this is how I plant my corn. I start my seeds indoors in a light well draining potting soil like Black Gold Seedling Mix ($ 9.50 for a 16 qt bag at worm’s Way MA) on a heating mat under fluorescent lights (also available at Worm’s Way). I’ll start the seeds around mid May to give them enough time to sprout and grow to about 5-6 inches before I plant them outside AFTER Memorial Day (here in MA). Corn is wind pollinated so always plant it in blocks rather that one or two long rows. The pollen from the tassel at the top of the stalk has to fall onto the silks of the ears. Each silk is attached to a kernel. If that silk doesn’t get pollinated the kernel won’t develop. Ever get a mutant ear of corn with missing kernels? Now you know why. Since it takes up so much room in the garden I always plant 2 seedlings to a hole. I space them 1 foot apart in at least 4 rows planted 2-3 feet apart. I like to do successive planting so I don’t get all my corn at once. After I plant out my first set I’ll start new seeds indoors and plant them out 2-3 weeks later.
I fertilize my corn with a high nitrogen organic fertilizer like Alaska Fish Fertilizer (you know where to find it ?) every couple weeks until the tassel start forming then I switch to a higher phosphorus fertilizer. Jamaican Bat Guano is one of my favorites. When the silks form you may want to spray them with a Neem Oil or BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) to prevent corn ear worms from getting in. About 20 days after the silks formed the ears are ready for harvest. To be sure, pick one ear and pop one of the kernels, if the juice is milky white the corn is ripe. If it’s clear give it another week or so.
Till next time…………………….