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madonnaswimmer
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Sweet Corn-- tips?

Just moved into my first house, which came with a garden plot (yay!!!). I am thinking of growing sweet corn. I have never grown corn before-- any tips? What maintenance does corn need?

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rainbowgardener
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It's a heavy feeder, so will need additions of nitrogen/ fertilizer of some kind a couple times in the season. It needs to be well weeded until the corn gets tall enough to outpace the weeds.

The corn silks each have to be individually pollinated by their own pollen grain, meaning there needs to be a lot of pollen flying around. Don't plant corn in stretched out rows, plant it in blocks, at least a 4x4 block of corn plants.

Otherwise not real high maintenance, but if you live where there are lots of critters you will need to fence/ guard it. I used to live on a 5 acre property. I had plenty of room for it, but gave up on growing corn, because EVERYBODY loves corn - raccoons, possums, squirrels, woodchucks, all the small rodents like mice and shrews, birds, deer ... all of which we had on our property. Never could get to eat any corn, though I had no trouble growing it.
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madonnaswimmer
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Thanks! Didn't know that about the pollinating... I guess I will designate a larger part of our garden plot (which is about 20x30 feet, so I should have room) for corn!

We have a compost heap-- I am assuming this will help it as well?

The garden is currently fenced, but it's really shoddy. One of our neighbors told me she liked to watch as the deer just lightly stepped over it, took a nibble of tomato, and then lied down for a nap. I just bought about 125 feet of garden fencing at Home Depot-- waiting for my Menards rebates to get the stakes! Once the snow is gone and the ground is workable, I'll be fixing that garden fence ASAP.

JayPoc
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you can easily hand pollinate to ensure full ears, which eases the restriction on plot size and shape...basically get a cup and a soft paint brush, collect a little pollen, powder it on the silks. I get great results with very little effort, and I don't plant large blocks...

Corn is a bit of a pain though because you get so little yield...only one or two nice ears per plant, and thats it.

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I plant quite a large plot to corn each season. Here is what I do:

Plant in rows 30 inches apart. (At least 3 rows is good for pollination.)
The plants are about every 8 inches in the row.
As noted corn needs nitrogen, so I fertilize it at planting time.
Water once a week. (Absolutely necessary in this dry climate.)
I hang a 4 foot fluorescent bug zapper right near the corn patch. This is for control of the corn earworm. Since the adult is a night flyer, it gets them.
Keep the weeds out.
When the ears are developing I put a radio in the corn patch to scare off the skunks and raccoons. They will literally clean you out if something is not done to discourage them.

I get corn on the cob by the wheel barrow full for sale at the market. Nothing like corn just picked and blanched quickly. ummm mmm good.

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The only thing I would add is that sometimes the wind can be a pain. If you live in a windy area the corn may have a tendency to fall over. It can typically be stood back up without too much effort or damage. I have heard of people planting the corn in a shallow furrow and then back filling the furrow once corn is a few feet high to help with this problem.

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jal_ut wrote: When the ears are developing I put a radio in the corn patch to scare off the skunks and raccoons. They will literally clean you out if something is not done to discourage them.
Really??? What a good idea! I can't put a radio out cuz of the neighbors and rain, but I wonder if like a windchime or something would work? Cuz last year, I was looking so forward to the last few ears of corn and something came and took it all! Ripped it right off the stalk and just left the pieces half eaten on the ground!

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jal_ut
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Ripped it right off the stalk and just left the pieces half eaten on the ground!
Yep! Sounds like what a skunk or raccoon does.

I put a piece of plywood over the radio to protect it from the rain.
Ya, the neighbors may complain...............
I don't really have it turned very loud and the corn tends to dampen it. Haven't had any complaints.

Try a motion light? Plug the radio into that and have a light too. It will shut off after a few minutes.
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madonnaswimmer
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Wow, thanks for all of the good tips!

I spoke with my grandmother yesterday, who used to grow corn at her house when she lived about a town away, so hopefully I'll have success, too. She said she planted the corn in rows, and never had problems with bugs or critters.

I think I will definitely plant in a block as suggested, as well as trying hand pollination for good measure.

Hopefully the tall fence will keep the critters out. Being the new kid on the block, I don't need to ruffle any feathers with the neighbors with a radio in the garden! I have a feeling a motion-activated light may annoy the neighbors behind me as well, as my garden is near the back of their house, which is where their living room, dining room, and bedroom are!

As a vet, I have come across a product called SScat, a motion-activated can of compressed air that scares the living daylights out of cats:
https://www.amazon.com/Ssscat-PDT00-1391 ... dp_product

I wonder if this product would work outdoors, or would it spray constantly with the sway of the plant? Would it work best at ground level or mounted with zip-ties to the fence next to the corn? Hmm. Might be worth trying, at least-- I can get it from one of our suppliers for about $20.

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No fence will keep the coons out and they love sweet corn. I've had them wipe out an entire 20x15 patch in one night.
Be ever vigilant. I have so many that I have no choice but to use lethal measures.
As far as deer if you have a short fence they will hop right over but if you don't want a high fence, which I don't because I like to see my garden, use fishing line. Just put long stakes in every 8-10 feet and hang fishing line in between a few inches apart, top to bottom. From a distance you can't see it. The deer can and won't come over the fence.

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jal_ut wrote: I hang a 4 foot fluorescent bug zapper right near the corn patch. This is for control of the corn earworm. Since the adult is a night flyer, it gets them.
I had huge corn earworm problems last year (but oddly, zero the year prior). More than half my ears had wriggly little caterpillars in them, and the top 1.5" was inedible and gross. I had to go through the entire patch with bypass loppers just before the corn party and hack off the top 2" of every ear.

jal_ut, do you use anything other than the bug zapper? I bought a bottle of Btk that I intend to use this year, but I've never tried it before.

Do you leave the zapper out from ear emergence until harvest? How many zappers do you use for how large a plot?
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imafan26
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It helps to plant a corn variety that grows best in your area. I thankfully do not have to contend with deer, pigs, raccoon, or squirrels.

I do plant a tight husk corn and that helps with the corn ear worm. I can plant slightly off season to beat the bugs. I have used the oil trick and it does work.

I have planted Silver Queen corn, and Illini Xtra Sweet F1. They taste very good. I don't plant corn every year and if I do get corn ear worms, they don't get far.

I planted Golden Bantam, another heirloom. I think this one was meant for animal feed.
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Re:

TheWaterbug wrote:
jal_ut wrote: I hang a 4 foot fluorescent bug zapper right near the corn patch. This is for control of the corn earworm. Since the adult is a night flyer, it gets them.
I had huge corn earworm problems last year (but oddly, zero the year prior). More than half my ears had wriggly little caterpillars in them, and the top 1.5" was inedible and gross. I had to go through the entire patch with bypass loppers just before the corn party and hack off the top 2" of every ear.

jal_ut, do you use anything other than the bug zapper? I bought a bottle of Btk that I intend to use this year, but I've never tried it before.

Do you leave the zapper out from ear emergence until harvest? How many zappers do you use for how large a plot?
I just bought the 1/2 acre version of this zapper for $35, plus a mounting bracket, extension cord, and a water-tight cord lock thingy. Everything's got 4+ stars from amazon's reviewers. Fingers crossed!
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jal_ut
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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

Yes, another technique it to treat the silks with mineral oil just as they start to brown.

Check Here

And Here
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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

Do you leave the zapper out from ear emergence until harvest? How many zappers do you use for how large a plot?
I have only one 4 foot bug zapper. Yes, I leave it on from the time the corn starts to silk until its ripe. It gets mosquitos too. My corn plot about 3000 sq feet.
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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

Yes! I just bought an oil can, and I have a bottle of BT dust that I bought (but didn't use) last year.

I'll use both the zapper and the BT+oil. I'm a belt, suspenders, and Velcro kind of guy :)
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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

jal_ut wrote:
Do you leave the zapper out from ear emergence until harvest? How many zappers do you use for how large a plot?
I have only one 4 foot bug zapper. Yes, I leave it on from the time the corn starts to silk until its ripe. It gets mosquitos too. My corn plot about 3000 sq feet.
Thanks! My plot is only about 12' x 30', so I'd hope a little zapper like I ordered would be OK. Due to the layout, the zapper will be at one end of the rows. If I have earworms at the far end, then I'll know I need another one for next year.
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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

The big zapper I have is supposed to be good for 1.5 acre coverage. You can get smaller ones.

Here is one for 1/2 acre coverage.

I know, it all costs money. Time we get done buying tools, seeds, tillers, ferts, and other odds and ends, makes one wonder if its worth it? Well, I do garden on a rather large scale compared to many backyard gardeners, and I can say that the harvest has been worth way more than any investments I have made to support it. Perhaps it won't be the first year, but the tools last for a time, perhaps many seasons.

It takes as many tools to garden 200 square feet as 1000 sq ft. Your investments will pay back quicker if you garden the 1000 sq feet over the 200 sq feet.

My point being that is seems useless to buy a $35 bug zapper to protect a corn patch that will only bring you $12 worth of corn.

Do we need to ask why we garden? If it is because we enjoy it, perhaps the cost doesn't matter? We do after all often spend money for enjoyment.

If we garden for the savings on food or even for sale, then the costs can be justified at the end when we tally the books.
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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

jal_ut wrote:The big zapper I have is supposed to be good for 1.5 acre coverage. You can get smaller ones.

Here is one for 1/2 acre coverage.
That's the exact zapper I bought, and I even bought it from Amazon 8)
My point being that is seems useless to buy a $35 bug zapper to protect a corn patch that will only bring you $12 worth of corn.
If I ever looked at gardening that way, I'd never have gotten started! Pound for pound I probably grow some of the most expensive vegetables on the planet. (No, that's not me, but I can identify with him!)

I see it as a hobby, and it's far less expensive than photography, fancy cars, or a boat. I had a mid-life crisis last year and spent $500 on a used rototiller. My spouse can hardly complain about that!
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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

If I ever looked at gardening that way, I'd never have gotten started! Pound for pound I probably grow some of the most expensive vegetables on the planet. (No, that's not me, but I can identify with him!)

I see it as a hobby, and it's far less expensive than photography, fancy cars, or a boat. I had a mid-life crisis last year and spent $500 on a used rototiller. My spouse can hardly complain about that!
There ya go. Like I said we don't really care about the cost of our hobbies. We do it for the enjoyment.

Hey, I got into photography many years ago, when we used film and darkrooms. Now that was expensive OK both for cost of equipment and film/processing. Now days, with digital stuff, it is lots easier to do photography as long as we look at them on computers and don't print them. Some pretty nice cameras built into our cell phones today too making it lots simpler to get some good pics. I just got a new cell phone and it has an 8 Mega Pixel camera in it. The Phone cost me $1.03. The real cost is for the monthly phone bill.

Have a great day.
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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

TheWaterbug wrote:Yes! I just bought an oil can, and I have a bottle of BT dust that I bought (but didn't use) last year.

I'll use both the zapper and the BT+oil. I'm a belt, suspenders, and Velcro kind of guy :)
Ugh. I did not use the Bt oil on my first little patch, and it has earworms. The zapper is less than 20' away, and it's on all night. So it's not working for me.

This morning I put BtK oil in all the ears of my larger, later patch. I hope I got the timing correct. The silks are mostly just turning a light brown, with some of them darker brown and some of them still very yellow. But the average silk is drying and light brown.

I'm guessing I'm about 3 weeks from harvest. Does that sound about right?
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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

I should amend my story a bit--my early crop had a few earworms. Of the ~35-40 ears I've picked off the 25 stalks, I think I saw 3-4 infested ears. These plants were closest to the zapper, but did not get any BtK oil.

The 100 plants next to these were a month behind, had the zapper going during the entire fruiting period, and also got BtK oil. I didn't see any earworms in the ~130 ears we picked.
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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

Another thing to remember about planting corn is that you need to plant all of one variety. If you want to do a different variety you need to plant it at least two weeks later to make sure it does not cross.

I usually plant corn closer because my plot is small. The other option is to plant two seeds in a hole to make sure you don't have any gaps. Corn has to be about the same age so you won't have much time to replant if any of the corn seeds fail to germinate

I plant a tight husk corn so I don't get very much corn ear worm damage. If I do they usually don't get far. I have heard of using the oil on the silks and dusting the silks with insecticides to prevent the caterpillars from burrowing into the fruit.

Corn is usually ready when the angle of the ear drops slightly or 10 days after the tassels appear.
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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

imafan26 wrote:Corn is usually ready when the angle of the ear drops slightly or 10 days after the tassels appear.
Though I do notice the angle of the ears tend to drop not all of mine do this. What we do is when you feel it’s about time to start harvesting find the largest ear and take a peek. If it’s ready pick, all ears that are as big around (or close to) as that one at the base get harvested. Then we wait a few days (maybe a week depending on the weather) and then pick any that have grown to be that same size around. Remember to feel for the circumference around the base of the ear and don't pay as much attention to length. It also seems to get to a point where the corn starts maturing at a smaller size so after a few pickings you many need to adjust accordingly.

We have picked 13 dozen so far and have just started picking from the second of three plantings. I'm estimating about 30 dozen by the time we’re done. I’ll try and get a few pics next time we harvest.

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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

Ummmm, yes, we just had our first corn this week. Sure is good right off the patch. No worms at all this year. I have had the bug light light on. It seems that the total bug population is down this year for some reason. I haven't had many bug probs yet. Usually the turnips are riddled with holes, but hardly a bug on them this year. ?????? I am thinking it was the light snow cover this past winter, and the bugs eggs in the ground likely froze.
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Re: Sweet Corn-- tips?

I harvested my first ears tonight! No zapper, and no BT or insect control. Also, I relied totally on natural pollination as I was out of town when the majority of the tassels and silks appeared. Picked 4 ears...three were near perfect and one had some damage that looked like it could have been ear worm but no worm was present. Anyway, excuse the awful cell phone pic...

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This is jackpot variety...

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