Vegetable Gardening: Growing Organic Sweet Corn
Sweet corn is sweet for a reason. It is picked at the immature stage, before sugars are converted to starch, and is eaten as a vegetable. Field corn, on the other hand, is picked at the mature stage (dry, dented) and is used as a grain. The Native American's introduced the early settlers to sweet corn and the rest, as they say, is history.
Newly developed hybrids have improved on the "sweetness" of sweet corn, uniformity of maturation, and storage length. But most corn officianos agree that non-hybrid sweet corn, with the disadvantage that it must be eaten very soon after harvest, has superior taste over the hybrid varieties.
Varieties of Sweet Corn to Grow in Your Vegetable Garden:
Home gardeners have a decision to make on the type of sweet corn to grow in their garden:
- Open-pollinated varieties: These traditional corn varieties are the most flavorful, but, alas, you must pick them at the right time. Because they convert sugars to starch rapidly, you must eat them very soon after harvest. The advantage the open-pollinated sweet corn is they require less fertilizer than hybrids and you can save the seeds for planting year to year.
- Sugary-enhanced hybrid varieties: These sweet corn varieties have the quality of remaining sweet for a week or longer after harvest. They are tender and have a rich corn flavor.
- Super-sweet hybrid varieties: If you want super-sweet corn with crisp kernels good for freezing, then you may want to try these sweet corn hybrids. Remember to plant them at least 30 feet away from other types of corn to prevent cross pollination.
- Synergistic hybrid varieties: As the name implies, these varieties have a balance of sugary-enhanced and super-sweet kernals.
Growing and Fertilizing Sweet Corn
- Sweet corn requires warm soil (above 65 degrees). To stretch your harvest, start planting in early summer both early and mid-season varieties.
- Traditionally, corn has been companion-planted with pole beans to the corn's benefit. Corn is a heavy user of nitrogen. Since beans are "nitrogen-fixing", your corn will receive additional nitrogen from the beans at no cost to you. Plus, the corn serves as a trellis for the beans to climb. Add squash to the mix and you have the "three sisters" grouping used by Native Americans.
- Corn can also benefit from the nitrogen-fixing bacteria supplied by VermaPlex®. Inoculate your corn patch with beneficial microbes before planting and practice "micro-fertilizing" (a very tiny amount of VermaPlex® added to the irrigation water) throughout the growing season.
Black Castings™, VermaMax® and VermaPlex® Applications for Sweet Corn:
- Mix the organic worm castings into your garden soil at a rate of 1 pound per 50 square feet (or 20 pounds per 1000 square feet).
- At planting, apply VermaPlex® at a rate of 20:1 (20 parts water to 1 part VermaPlex®).
- When sweet corn reaches 20-30 feet growth stage, apply VermaPlex® at a rate of 40:1.
- When sweet corn "tassels", apply VermaPlex® at a rate of 40:1
- Sweet corn will benefit from additional nitrogen such as VermaMax®, applied at steps 3-4. Wait 1-2 weeks after applying any nitrogen product before the VermaPlex® application.
"VermaPlex® can be applied as a drench or as a foliar spray"