As warmer weather approaches, we conjure up images associated with the upcoming season — longer days, swimming, snow cones, barbecues … and sweet corn.
Sweet corn is a warm-season garden staple along with tomatoes and cucumbers. It’s not difficult to grow, says LSU AgCenter vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot.
Follow these basic tips to aid in your success:
Plant corn as soon as possible to miss higher pest populations, Fontenot says.
“Insects can wreak havoc on plants, and corn is no exception,” she says. To reduce insects in your corn patch, plant early in the season when pest populations are lower. As the weather warms, stink bug and corn earworm populations tend to rise.
“Corn loves fertilizer as much as a pig loves to eat corn,” says AgCenter program assistant Bobby Williams.
When preparing a garden for corn, apply 4 to 6 pounds of 13-13-13 fertilizer per 100 feet of row one to three weeks prior to planting. Then sidedress with five to seven pounds of nitrogen fertilizer such as calcium nitrate or potassium nitrate per 100 feet of row when the corn is 12 inches tall and again at 24 inches tall.
If the leaves are yellowing, you can apply a little more, Fontenot says. But if the kernels are already set, you don’t need to worry about adding much more.
“You’ll know at harvest if you didn’t apply enough fertilizer because the tip of the ear will not fill out,” she says.
Make a “patch” by planting at least three rows of corn side by side for optimum pollination, Fontenot says. Corn is wind pollinated, so having a wider grouping of corn is much better than one long row.
Leave the tillers, which Fontenot says are new shoots that grow from the base of the corn plant. In some cases, the tiller may help support the corn plant in high wind and reduce the chance of it falling over.
Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.