Growing and Saving the Seed Of Corn
Corn is a quintessential Native American crop, and it was a staple of indigenous peoples from South America to Canada.
Corn is believed to have been first domesticated in Mexico. Indigenous communities from South America to Canada historically depended on corn as an important food source and as a material to make essentials like sleeping mats and baskets. Today, about 80 million acres of corn are planted in the U.S. annually. Most of it is genetically modified, which is why Baker Creek has all its corn seed tested for purity from GMO corn pollen contamination. Countless varieties of heirloom corn exist; many more have been lost over the years.
- Ornamental and culinary
- Animal feed
- Corn cannot tolerate cold weather; plant corn directly in the ground after all chance of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to at least 50 degrees.
Direct sow 1 to 2 inches deep in the richest soil available.
Plant corn 12 inches apart.
Ideal germination temperature is 75-80 F.
- Do not transplant corn; the delicate roots cannot handle it.
- Corn is a heavy feeder; plants need a rich soil with plenty of organic matter. Add well-rotted compost to the corn bed before planting.
- Plant in blocks as opposed to rows for better pollination.
- Because corn matures all at once, succession plant every other week for 6 weeks to ensure a steady supply. Each plant needs 1 square foot of space.
- Fertilize with a balanced organic 10-10-10 at one cup per ten feet. Fertilize just before planting and again 6 weeks later.
- Mulch plants to retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Sweet corn is approaching maturity when silks have dried and turned brown. Dent corn is ready when the husks have dried and turned brown; the kernels should be hard.
- In areas of high wind, it may be necessary to stake corn stalks or provide a windbreak.
- Corn earworm is a major pest of corn. To suffocate these pests, apply mineral oil to the silks once they have turned brown.
- European corn borer can be controlled with Bt.
- Raccoons are one of the biggest pests. To ward them off, try leaving a portable radio playing in the garden at night.
- You can also interplant trailing beans to run along the bottom of the plants, as it is believed that raccoons don’t like to get tangled in the vines.
- Corn is wind pollinated and will easily cross with other varieties (including GMO corn!). You will need at least 1 mile of isolation to avoid cross pollination. You can also use staggered timing or caging techniques.
- Hand pick ears when fully dried on stalk. Seeds keep best if left on the ear; just remove at planting time.
- Sweet corn seeds will remain viable for 2 years; dent corn will last up to 5 years when properly stored.