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Corn

HOW TO PLANT CORN:

There is nothing like home-grown sweet corn! We grow (and offer) only open-pollinated and F-1 corn seed. The open-pollinated corn is really becoming rare seed; most corn seed is hybridized. The secret to growing the sweetest corn you will ever taste is in soil, the planting technique, and a really good organic fertilizing and amending program. I have Apache women drive one hour to buy our corn. It's that good!

SOIL PREPARATION:

One of biggest keys to success in organic gardening is the condition of the soil.  There needs to be adequate organic matter to hold moisture and nutrients.  And at the same time, the soil needs to be loose enough for good aeration and drainage, which will help promote strong root development.

Corn is a very heavy feeder, and if you plan to grow in successive years, I highly recommend rotating your crop. Planting cover crops (vetch, rye, clover, buckwheat) is a good way to amend poor soil for nitrates on a large scale, but most of my costumers have small gardens under 500 sq ft and want really good organic corn.  So this is what I recommend. First take a cup of fish meal per every 100 sq ft and 1 cup MegaVeggie and mix into top 6" of soil. If you have poor soil to begin with, double this amount in the beginning and mix with your soil. Also, work in at least 2-4” of organic mulch and at least one-half inch of finished compost into your topsoil.

Also, mulching with compost or straw will help keep the soil moist and also help to feed the plant and prevent weeds. Don't mulch over 3-4" because this might prevent oxygen from entering the soil and could cause root rot.

PLANTING INSTRUCTIONS:

If planting from seed: Plant corn 5 days before your last frost date, 1” deep with 3 seeds per hole. Thin after one week or so, leaving the two biggest seedlings. Plant 12-18” apart in a block pattern, meaning 16 plants in a 4 ft x 4 ft square block, or 36 plants in a 6 ft x 6 ft block for example. (Or in my case, 100x100 – I love sweet corn!) The reason you can’t just grow a single row is because you have to let the pollen mix in the wind.  So, plant at least four rows to ensure proper pollination, with 4 feet between rows. Water with MegaSea seaweed solution to help with germination and to promote root growth.

If planting seedlings: If you choose to plant seedlings, start indoors three to four weeks before the last anticipated hard frost.  Harden them off first if you are buying or growing starts.  This is done by placing the seedlings in direct sun for an hour, then placing in the shade.   Each following day increase the time in the sun by one hour; repeat this each day until they are in the sun for 6 to 8 hours, which will take a week or so. Make sure they don’t dry out.

If you know there is a chance of hard freeze, bring seedlings inside until freeze is over. When it is safe, leave seedlings outside, placing them next to a building with an overhang and let them get used to nighttime temperatures.  The building and overhead cover should give you some protection.  After one night outside and they are used to sun, you can plant without shocking the plant.  Plant in soil when outside temperatures may go to 32 degrees but mostly stay above freezing.

When planting, use a tablespoon of MegaStart or MegaBone in the bottom each planting hole. If you’re Vegan or don’t like to use bone meal, use VeganStart instead. It’s not only 100% organic like MegaStart or MegaBone, but it's also animal-free. It is best to root feed with MegaSea seaweed right after planting to prevent shock.  Seaweed is better for shock prevention than any other product on the market.

FERTILIZING/AMENDING:

After planting, continue to feed MegaFish hydrolyzed fish mixed with seaweed once a week. Spray right on the leaves and let some soak into the ground around the base of the plant.

When corn is 1’ high, plant a good pole bean 6" from the corn stem in a cross-pattern, with 2 beans going each way 1” across (north, south, east, west) for a total of 8 beans. This will help with nitrates because beans set nitrates in the soil from the air, and it will help next year’s soil. Make sure the corn is a foot high before you plant the bean seed so the corn is always ahead of the bean and the bean won't choke out the corn. At the same time as planting your beans between the corn stalks, plant your squash or pumpkins between the 4’ rows.  This way you can really take advantage of your growing opportunities with your garden!

When your corn is up to your knee, pour blood meal (or rooster poop) on one side of your corn. Use one cup every ten feet and water in or scratch in. I live in a very windy area in the spring and we have bad storms in the summer. This is why we double grow with two corns per hole. This way their roots intertwine and it helps keep them from blowing over. I also pile soil on their side stalks to also help with the wind. I do this just before I put the blood meal down.

Then when the corn firsts starts to tassel, when you first see it emerging from the top, blood or rooster poop the other side of corn in the row. Sweet corn is ready in the milk stage. Peel back the husk and take your thumbnail and poke a kernel, if you see a white milk it is ready to harvest.

I usually stop the fish by the time the pollen is over but will use seaweed right up to the time of harvest. The corn will be the sweetest for a heirloom variety you have ever eaten. With popcorn, Indian or dent corn, let it dry on the stalk. One thing you also need to know if you’re going to grow pop or field corn with sweet corn and other (F-1) varieties is to stagger your planting by at least ten days so the pollen won't cross and make your sweet corn tough and less sweet. Some F-1 corn varieties that cross will ruin both crops, so make sure you stagger your plant date and they finish at different times. So if you have an 80-day corn and a 90-corn you will be OK, but if you have a 66-day and a 73, stagger accordingly to leave at least 10 days between them so the pollen won’t cross.  

Recommended Schedule for Fertilizing and Amending Soil:

1.  Fish Meal & MegaVeggie (as well as MegaBone/MegaStart if planting seedlings) -- at planting
2.  MegaSea & MegaFish -- each week, combine both and spray leaves as well as let some soak into ground around base of plant (stop fish once the pollen is over, but continue seaweed up until harvest)
3.  Blood Meal or Rooster Poop – when corn is up to your knee, pour one cup every ten feet on one side of corn, then water or scratch in.  When corn starts to
tassel, do the same thing on the other side of the corn.

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