Did you know that, as soon as corn is picked up from the field, the sugar from its flesh starts converting into starch. This is the reason why the variety that you buy off the market shelves is not sweet enough. If you really long to test garden-fresh, juicy sweet corn, you can try growing it in your own backyard. Just remember to keep the following basic tips in mind before you start and throughout the activity.
Planting the seeds and managing the crop is quite easy. The most important factors are appropriate plantation, healthy soil, and picking the crop at the right time. Given below is a detailed explanation about the same.
Preparation of Soil
Fertile soil with humus and enough moisture is a must for growing this crop. It should be properly drained, as these plants can't tolerate waterlogged soil. The soil is usually prepared at least one month prior to sowing the seeds. It should be plowed deeply and should be allowed to dry. This prevents the spread of soil-borne pathogens from any of the previous crops planted at that particular site. It also prevents nematodes if present. If you have an option, prefer sites where crop rotation has been followed, as these sites have less chances of disease occurrence. Also, if possible, plant leguminous plants such as peas and beans prior to planting corn, so that the nitrogen content increases and it becomes more enriched (leguminous plants enrich the soil with nitrogen with the help of their legumes).
Sowing and Plantation
For this plant to be healthy and reap a good harvest, you should use healthy and disease-free corn seedlings. So, care should be taken right from the sowing phase. The soil that is utilized for sowing should be rich in nutrients. Otherwise supplement it with farmyard manure and multi-purpose compost. The first and foremost thing to be taken care of is sowing the right variety of corn, since for each type, the requirements are different. For example, "sugar-enhanced" and "super-sweet" corn can't tolerate low temperatures, so they should be planted only after frost, when the temperature is around 17 ºC. Normal "sweet corn", on the other hand, can be grown early, even when the atmospheric temperature is around 10 ºC. Also make sure that the corn seeds are fungicide-treated and are of resistant variety.
Sowing can be done outdoors or in a greenhouse. Sowing in a greenhouse is advantageous as it is easy to maintain the optimum plant requirements. Sowing should be done preferably in late April. Sow corn seeds at about 3-4 cm deep and cover them with soil. Watering should be done thoroughly once after sowing. When the seedlings reach a height of about 2 cm, choose the healthy seedlings for transplantation. Before planting in the exact site, acclimatize the seedlings in outdoors by storing them in shade. Now, the acclimatized seedlings can be transplanted in garden soil.
Plant the seeds about 20-30 cm apart and see to it that you maintain a distance of at least 50-60 cm between rows. Since corn is wind-pollinated, there should be at least 100 plants per block to enhance the fertilization process. Less plants per block hampers the pollination and results in short cornstalks and fewer cobs. Watering should be done regularly. Too little or too much watering always leads to disease problems.
Sweet corn requires less maintenance as compared to other crops. However, it is important to take care of certain things such as keeping the soil moist and removing weeds regularly. If the soil is dry, you will notice that the leaves start curling. These should be taken care of by watering the crop at regular intervals. When the plants reach a height of about 50 cm, the watering frequency should be brought down to once a week. Also, this is the time to feed the crop with external nutrients in order to have a good harvest. Usually chemical fertilizers are not preferred since they have side effects in the long run. Instead you can use eco-friendly organic fertilizers by composting kitchen garbage and food leftovers. Depending upon the cultivars, ear (female inflorescence) and tassel (male inflorescence) will develop at a certain time and pollination will take place. Gentle shaking of the plants will increase the chances of fertilization and help in uniform development of the kernel.
Allow the corncobs to grow for about 20 days after the first silk strands appear. When the cob attains a certain length, you can check whether they are ready for harvesting or not. If the kernels produce a white milky juice when being punctured, it is confirmed that they are ripe. Harvest the ripe cobs before it becomes too late. Normally they are harvested within 70-100 days of plantation time, depending upon the variety and the weather conditions.
Diseases and Pests
As long as crop rotation, nutrient balance, and proper watering are practiced, this plant is rarely damaged by diseases and pests. However, diseases do affect them when this routine is disturbed. Let's see some of the commonly occurring diseases.
Rust, smut, leaf blight, root and stalk rot, seed rot, and seedling diseases are the ones that occur most commonly. Rust is developed due to less moisture and low temperature, whereas smut develops due to excess water and high temperature. Corn leaf blight develops mostly due to monoculture of corn for subsequent years. Overcrowding and poor drainage may result in root and stalk rot disease. Seed rot and seedling disease spread through poor quality seeds. In addition, there are nematode diseases, viral diseases, and bacterial diseases whose exact causes are not known. The common sweet corn pests are wireworm and white grub. Other pests include flea and sap beetles, cutworms, corn borer, and corn earworm.
Diseases and pests can be controlled by following cultural practices such as planting improved and suitable varieties of the particular area, regular removal of weeds and affected plant parts, proper irrigation, and avoiding monoculture as far as possible.
The experience of picking up ripe corn right from your garden can be really satisfying. You can try on many of the mouth-watering recipes with the freshly picked sweet corn. Cornbread salad, corn cobbler, corn patties, corn casserole, corn salsa, corn salad, scalloped corn, corn fritters, corn pudding are some of them, not forgetting popping corn.