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How to Raise Corn in Your Garden

Raising corn in your backyard garden.

This describes the best way to raise sweet corn in the backyard garden.

Corn or maize originated as a wild grass in Mexico that was cultivated by the natives of Mexico into its present form. Before Columbus discovered the New World in 1492 corn had already spread over the Americas as a staple food. The Spaniards after conquering Mexico in the early 1500s spread it over the rest of the world. Many of the mid-America peoples calendars are arranged to the planting and harvesting of corn.

These Native Americans developed the three different types of corn we raise to this day. They were field corn, sweet corn and popcorn. These were the corn varieties that greeted the first European Settlers that were taught how to grow sweet corn and the other varieties by the Indians.

It makes little difference how you raise corn as you ultimately get the same results in the end. But the easy way of raising sweet corn is the “hill method.” This method is somewhat more labor intensive then other ways, but for a small backyard garden it still is the best way. The gardener creates a heap of soil about an inch high and twelve inches in diameter in rows about 18 inches apart. Into this hill he evenly distributes about ten or twelve kernels of seed corn that you have bought from a seed dealer or garden center. Seed can be saved from the previous year as long as your corn is not a hybrid.

NOTE: All three types of corn can be planted in hills if desired. Keep popcorn away from the other two types of corn because it will cross breed with them creating a hybrid corn that won’t pop.

An old Indian trick was to first dig a shallow hole in the ground under where you wanted your hill. They would toss in a dead fish into the hole that was covered with a thin layer of earth before the hill was built. The dead fish acted as fertilizer for the growing corn. After the corn is about a foot high you will have to scoop up more soil from around the hills making then slightly higher to accommodate the growth of the corn, and keeping it from falling over. Other then keeping the weeds down between the hills this is all you have to do before harvesting the corn.

Because corn is sensitive to frost that will kill it, be sure you are beyond the time in your area where you are apt to have frost. In the northern part of country this is right after Memorial Day. Corn is a fast growing plant that when mature corn stalks can be as high as 10 feet.

Sweet corn is ready for the table from the end of July until the first killing frost. As the ears form you can generally tell when the sweet corn is ready for harvest when the tips of the silk projecting from the end of the ear turns slightly brown. Another way to tell if the corn is ready is by feeling the ear. If it feels nice and round and full it is ready to be picked. The little ears of corn the Chinese favor with some of their dishes is actually sweet corn that is not ripe when it is picked.

 

 

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