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Lend an ear for latest news on growing corn

SHARE Lend an ear for latest news on growing corn

Summer would be incomplete if wonderful sweet corn were not available. While it is in season in my garden, the menu each night includes corn and whatever else we decide to have with it. The long golden ears kissed by the summer sun are a treat that cannot be equaled. Our surplus is frozen or canned, but it never approaches the glorious flavor of the tasty, fresh, right-from-the-garden ears.

Corn is one vegetable that is not for every garden. It is one of the leading crops in America, so corn has been highly studied and researched. In terms of productivity it takes more room than most other vegetables. The problems comes because each plant produces a maximum of one or maybe two ears. Once they produce those ears there are no more. Many vegetables produce again and again, but the corn takes so much space, many gardeners with small plots learn to depend on local growers or trusted family friends to provide them with the tasty treats they desire. Even so, the effort to find a spot to plant a small corn patch will provide you with unrivaled taste.Plant breeders have made more progress with corn than with any other plant. The original research of large-scale hybridization took place with corn and continues unabated. Each year more and more new varieties are introduced, and each is supposed to have something better than others that you are now growing. The real test comes with the growing of that variety or, in other words, the proof is in the ear.

Popular standard corn varieties include Earlivee, Golden Jubilee and Earlipack. These are all yellow varieties. They must be cooked and eaten soon after picking because the sugars start to turn to starch within 30 minutes. Consequently they lose quality rapidly once they are harvested.

Plant breeders have introduced two new types of corn with higher sugar content. Super Sweet gene types have two to three times the sugar content of standard varieties. They will hold for several weeks and still be higher in quality than standard varieties. These must be planted in very warm soils, so do not rush their planting this year as the spring temperatures have been cooler than average.

These varieties require isolation to develop their best flavor. Plant them at least 300 feet away from other types or grow them so the tasseling time is kept apart by at least two weeks. Popular varieties include Honey & Pearl (bicolor), How Sweet It Is (white), Illini Extra Sweet (yellow), Phenomenal (bicolor) and Super Sweet Jubilee (yellow).

Sugar-enhanced varieties include some of my personal favorites. Breeders Choice (bicolor), Incredible (yellow), Maple Sweet (yellow), Miracle (yellow), Platinum Lady (white) and Sugar Buns (yellow) are all excellent kinds that grow well in our area. Isolation of these types is recommended but not required.

Corn grows easily in our area if you follow a few simple guidelines. The planting site is critical. The plant will never produce well without maximum sun. If the garden is shady, choose something else to try there. This need for sun also necessitates proper spacing. Overcrowding can prevent the stalks from forming ears. When rows are spaced 36 inches apart, thin the plants to 9 inches between single plants. When plants are spaced correctly, they produce a couple of nice ears per plant. They will also develop tillers, or side shoots, on the plants. Let these develop to nurture the developing ears.

Plant corn when the soil temperatures are warm enough to germinate the seed quickly. Plant when danger of frost is past. Ideally the soil temperature at the planting depth should be 50 degrees Fahrenheit for three suc-ces-sive mornings when measured at 9 a.m. Although you may not be that precise, wait for the soil to warm up so the seed does not decay before germinating. With proper planning you can harvest several crops throughout the summer. Many books recommend planting every two weeks for continuous harvest. Since corn develops based on temperature, the two-week interval may not keep the crops two weeks apart at harvest time. A better way to plan for a continuous harvest is to make the next planting when the previously planted corn has grown 6 inches tall and has three to four leaves.

Corn is a grass and loves nitrogen fertilizer. Apply one cup of ammonium sulfate per 50 feet of row every three weeks for maximum production. It also requires plenty of water, especially during silking, to prevent skipped kernels on the ears.

Plant as much of this wonderful vegetable as you can spare room for in your garden. These tasty treats are truly some of the finest you will enjoy this summer.