Corn is easy to grow. It’s a snap to harvest. Best of all, when you eat it fresh from your garden, it is among the dandiest summer treats.
I plant one packet’s worth of seeds. This year, I got 108 plants from the packet. I think that was about twenty percent more than the past couple of years, so be aware that packets vary in quantity by seed company.
On July 23, I picked the last of the corn. Beginning on July 12, I harvested seventy-six ears. Here’s the rundown:
- July 12: 11
- July 14: 10
- July 16: 9
- July 18: 9
- July 19: 5
- July 21: 25
- July 23: 7
There were fifteen to twenty more that did not fully develop and went into the trash, and several stalks sprouted late and did not grow ears. The day that I picked twenty-five, Julie was out of town. I cooked them all, ate seven, then cut the kernels off the rest, filling five pint bags for the freezer.
The seventy-six were perfectly formed and delicious, as in the photo, below.
This year was remarkable in that I had no animals get into my garden—the first two years here, I lost about thirty percent to raccoons—and of the dozens of ears I shucked I only saw one insect and zero worms. I don’t have a fence, and I did not put neem oil—which I use for insect control—on the corn. If I would have seen signs of pests, I would have used the neem oil; they simply never arrived. Perhaps, they had their fill from my broccoli and collard greens, where I lost the battle with them.
Growing one’s own corn requires a bit of a commitment. With some crops, such as tomatoes and peppers, there is a window of several days when they can be picked, but when sweet corn is ready to harvest you need to pick it. Letting ready ears go for even a couple more days will result in kernels which are overgrown and mushy.
Watch for the cobs to look full size and the silk to have turned brown. If you think cobs are ready, give them a grip, which, with practice, will tell you whether the kernels are full size. If you aren’t sure, pull down the husk and look at the kernels. If they are small, simply pull the husk back to cover the ear as it finishes maturing.
Plant corn in a block. Because the ears are pollinated as the pollen falls from the tassels to the ear’s silk, having the rows next to each other increases the likelihood that breeze-blown pollen will land on silk. Corn planted in a single row stands a good chance of being poorly pollinated, which will result in spotty kernel growth.
I planted an early variety, so that I would have it all harvested before the end of July. Next to my corn, I plant a vining crop, such as squash or canteloup. This year, it’s watermelons. Vining crops require a lot of room. By the time the corn is ready to pick, the nextdoor vines are encroaching the corn, as seen here.
As soon as I pick the last of the corn, I pull the stalks. The vines now have all of that space to grow.
I rotate my crops, not putting a vegetable on ground for at least every third year, as each type of plant takes nutrients from the soil at varying degrees. Thus, next year’s corn will not provide the temporary privacy fence as this year. Despite the cover, when I was sitting on the porch, below, and Mac, across the street, walked down his driveway to get his mail, he peered through the stalks, spied me, and gave me a wave.
Despite our being friendly neighbors, I don’t share my corn with Mac. He has his own. After sharing some of our produce with him and his wife, Alice, from our first garden two years ago, they put in their own . . . including a patch of corn.