How to plant sweet corn

Sweet corn is one of the most appreciated and popular vegetables in the world and this is due to its freshness and sugary flavor. Learn how to plant sweet corn in the garden and add one of the richest and most complete vegetables to your diet.

The origin and constitution of sweet corn

Sweet corn has the scientific name of Zea mays L and belongs to the family of Poáceas or Gríneas. It is originally from America, probably from the region where Mexico is located, and has been in use for roughly 10,000 years. The cultivation of sweet corn is usually annual, propagation is done by seeds and planting is done directly on the land .

Sweet corn has, on average, a height of 1.30 to 2.50 meters in length, has an erect, cylindrical and fibrous stem and is usually covered by sheaths. The leaves are medium or large in size, green in color, flexible and have a white, smooth and clearly visible central nerve. The plant produces a male flower in its highest part, where it produces the pollen grains and a female flower which is the ear, which is located at half the height of the plant.

The varieties of sweet corn

Sweet corn varieties are generally characterized by their color, ripeness and sweetness and are classified into two major groups:

The open pollination variety: more than 63 different pollination varieties are recognized that have been used since the beginning of the 20th century. All of them were changed from the maize of the field and the most important, the Golden Bantam has become one of the most popular. The biggest problem with this type of variety is related to the difficulty of storage for a long period of time.

The hybrid variety: represents the evolution of the works that were carried out in the open pollination variety. This variety can be stored for a longer period of time, it is easier to grow and guarantees a better yield of the crops.

The types of sweet corn kernels

Sweet corn has grains that can be white, yellow and white and yellow. However, the color of the corn grain does not represent any kind of indicator, nor will it determine the sweetness of the corn itself. Regarding sweetness, corn kernels are classified into four distinct types:

  1. Standard grains: contains 6% sucrose and has the “su-1” gene that is responsible for transforming sugar into starch. When maize is grown in this class, it needs to be harvested at the most appropriate time and consumed immediately.
  2. Reinforced sugar grains: contains the “if” gene that is responsible for increasing the sugar content in sweet corn. This class makes sugar take longer to turn into starch. If you store this type in the refrigerator, you can keep its sweetness for a period of two to four days.
  3. Super sweet grains: this variety, as its name implies, is the sweetest of them all. It has the gene “sh-2” that increases the levels of sucrose in the corn grain by two or three times more than the standard type. The result is the maintenance of its sweetness for a longer time, making this variety ideal for export.
  4. Synergistic grains: it is a relatively new class that is distinguished by combining all genes (su-1, if, sh-2). It does so perfectly that a single ear can contain a variety of different grains and flavors.

Soil preparation for growing sweet corn

Compared to other foods you may have in your vegetable garden or vegetable garden , sweet corn does not require much attention. However, one of the greatest care you should take is with the soil. Consider the following aspects:

The type of soil: sweet corn can grow in many types of soil, however, the land used must have sufficient moisture and be well supplied with humus to achieve good results. The best soil for planting sweet corn is slightly acidic and should have a pH of 5.8 to 7.

The soil temperature: ideally, the soil temperature should be above 10 degrees centigrade. However, for different corn kernels, the temperature should vary. For example, the super sweet grain type requires soil temperatures to reach a minimum of 15 degrees Fahrenheit, otherwise the germination process takes much longer. Keep in mind that temperature determines how long it takes for sweet corn to emerge.

Fertilizing the soil: before planting sweet corn, it is advisable that the farmland has been properly fertilized and has not been used for a certain period of time. In this sense, it is a good idea to start preparing the soil in the autumn or winter before and add compost or organic fertilizers to enrich the soil. You can use the land for cultivation of other crops, such as beans or peas , because the land that was used to grow these vegetables is very rich in nitrogen and this is a very important substance in the growth of sweet corn.

Soil drainage: when growing sweet corn, keep in mind that you must have an adequate drainage system. If soil water clogs, it will not help the growth of sweet corn and can lead to poor harvest. Plant the sweet corn at an elevated location or make sure that the soil in your garden has a good drainage system. You should also check for weeds in your crop. Weeds are reputed to spoil the planting of various vegetables, such as potatoes , rhubarb , lettuce , among others, and sweet corn is no exception. If weeds are present, you must remove them immediately so that they do not jeopardize the growth of sweet corn seeds.

How to plant sweet corn

The cultivation of sweet corn is carried out throughout the year and to obtain the best results you must follow the following steps:

Choosing the right sweet corn varieties: go to a specialty store or seed store to find out which sweet corn seed varieties are best suited to your land.

Select types of corn kernels: All types of corn kernels can be planted in a vegetable garden or vegetable garden, however, there are people who prefer their corn kernels to be sweeter. That way, you must decide which types of corn kernels you will use in your plantation.

Plant the seeds in the ground: to obtain a good cultivation of sweet corn, you must plant the seeds in the ground in a square configuration, or in at least two rows. This is essential, as sweet corn depends on the wind for pollination and the best results are obtained when the corn stalks are close to each other.

Space the seeds on the ground: the seeds must be placed one centimeter deep and must be spaced 20 to 30 centimeters apart. On the other hand, you must create at least two rows and they must be separated at a distance of 30 to 40 centimeters.

Regular watering: sweet corn needs regular watering so that the soil does not become dry. You should be aware if two seedlings sprout in the same place: if this happens, you must remove the one that is more fragile and plant it again in another place. When your harvest reaches a height of 50 cm, the number of waterings should decrease. On the other hand, if you notice that the leaves start to curl, this is a sign that they need more water for their growth.

When to harvest sweet corn

The harvest of sweet corn must be carried out when the ears have 70 to 80% humidity and, preferably, in the early hours of the morning, when the humidity of the air is still high and the temperature is lower than the other hours of the day.

As a rule, the sweet corn harvest period starts 20 to 30 days after flowering, however, you can check whether or not the corn is ready to be harvested by looking at the color of the corn kernels – they should have a color white or yellowish. On the other hand, if you prick the core of the ear and find that a milky substance drips, this is a sign that the corn is ready to be harvested. Keep in mind that the advancement of grain ripeness causes most of the sugar to be converted into starch and this causes the corn to lose its original sweetness and flavor.

To ensure that your crop remains at maximum sweetness for a long period of time, you should place the harvested ears in ice water and store them in a cool place with temperatures in the order of 0 degrees centigrade. As the storage temperature rises, the product’s useful life decreases.

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