Corn (Zea mays) – Vegetable garden


corn (Zea mays) is the only grain that is eaten fresh as a vegetable. There are several types of corn (Zea mays). Field corn is not eaten fresh. It is also referred to as dent corn because of the appearance of the dried kernels. Field corn is used as livestock or poultry feed or dried and ground into corn meal for people. Indian corn or flint corn is often brightly colored and is starchy like field corn. Popcorn is grown and dried to be eaten popped. Sweet corn is the most popular corn used by many gardeners. Sweet corn is grown in most vegetable gardens and is eaten fresh.

Scientific name: Zea mays
Common name: corn


How to grow and maintain corn:

Corn (Zea mays) will grow most soils if it is well drained. Corn (Zea mays) grows best in loam soils. For good germination of seeds, the soil needs to be 60°F or above.

When planting, follow the directions on the back of the seed package or plant seeds 1.5 to two inches deep, five to six inches apart in rows that are two to three feet apart. Thin plants to 10 to 12 inches apart. Many people find that the super sweet corn varieties do not germinate well. If seeds do not germinate, plant when the soil is warm to the touch and space the seeds closer than recommended.

Corn (Zea mays) needs lots of water, especially from the time the tassels (silky, hair-like material growing out of the top of the ear of corn) appear until harvest. An inch of water per week, either from rain or the hose will ensure proper moisture. More water may be required on sandy soil.

Plan to fertilize twice. Before setting out seedlings, amend the soil with compost and mix a balanced organic or timed-release fertilizer into the soil. About 6 weeks or so later, when the plants start to produce tassels, fertilize them again. Use a hoe or trowel to mix the fertilizer into the top inch of soil between the plants. After this booster feeding, water your corn once or twice weekly if the weather is hot and dry.

Harvest sweet corn after the silks on the ear turn brown and are dry. Corn kernels should be round and filled out. Kernels that are square may be past their prime and the sugars converted to starch. Husks should appear fresh and not dried out.

The quality of sweet corn decreases very rapidly after picking. The sugars convert to starch and the unique flavor is lost. Use immediately or store for a short time in the refrigerator. Fresh sweet corn can be frozen or canned, if done correctly.

To help prevent seeds from rotting in cold soil early in the spring, it is possible to use seeds treated with a fungicide. Those that are treated will be colored, like a brilliant pink. The package will also have that information on it. Cover the seeds well with soil to deter birds or animals from eating the seeds. If loss of seeds
to birds or animals is a continuing problem in a small garden, use a narrow strip of hardware screening or chicken wire over the row until the corn plants just begin to emerge. Eaves troughs covers work well for this, too. Be sure to remove screening before the corn plants sprout and are damaged. Insects or animals may be troublesome, especially corn earworms and raccoons. Contact your local Extension office for information on how to manage these pests.

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