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Corn on the cawwww

Image credit: Andre Ouellet / Unsplash

Gardening is something that seems to have a niche audience. Some even view it as more of a chore than anything else. However, it is truly a hobby that can be your pride and enjoyment during quarantine.

One crop in particular that is very good to get you going as a beginner is the corn plant. I promise you that you can grow corn so easily you’ll be wondering why you haven’t started sooner. It’s relatively cheap, too, considering that most seeds are very affordable and the knowledge to grow a successful crop is plentiful.

Another reason to get into gardening and growing corn is that it gives you another reason to get up every day. After all, gardening requires you to be responsible for something that can die if you don’t take daily care of it. This is a valuable lesson that cannot be taught through curriculum. Rather, it requires individuals’ hard work in caring for the corn and intuition to solve problems while attempting to grow a living being.

That isn’t to say that I cannot offer you any help in this hobby! This article is a handy step-by-step guide that will improve your chances of success but not guarantee it, so you can still feel proud of yourself when you have a six-foot-stalk growing out of a muddy pot.

Step number one!

The first step for anyone getting into gardening is preparing an environment for your seed so that it has a place to grow. This involves a pot or piece of land that doesn’t include weeds or large plants that could suck up all the water in the very beginning.

If you’re using a pot, make sure it’s something that you can move with the added weight of wet soil and something that has proper drainage.

Drainage is something that often confuses people, and they worry that their corn doesn’t have enough or too little. You shouldn’t really worry about it, especially when it comes to your first time gardening.

Simply make sure there is a hole under your pot. If you’re still not completely sure, understand that you could be over-watering your corn, or there may be a blockage from the hole, especially if the pot is sitting flat on the ground. Also, your corn could very well be growing roots so deep they collect near the hole.

Using a piece of land as opposed to a pot means that you live somewhere where you’re allowed to change the land you live on. Make sure to ask your parents about this before you start digging holes or possibly uprooting other plants next to your golden spot.

Going with a piece of land might also just mean you have a raised bed that could sit outside. Either way, you shouldn’t have to worry about drainage at all because of how the water will flow away into unoccupied spaces surrounding the corn. Just make sure your land is at least ten to twelve inches deep and that there is enough loose soil for your corn to grow roots into.

Your main problem with this approach is sunlight. Generally, the corn needs at least 6 hours of sunlight. You need to make sure that your spot can get that sun throughout the day, so keep in mind that as seasons progress so will the position of the sun.

With the problem of land out of the way, we have to discuss the problem of your soil. It is important to have nutrients your corn can leech off during its life. This is so that it can use them for inner workings that require something more than just water and sunlight. Soil is dirty but it’s also rich. It has the minerals your corn needs just as much a person needs their vitamins.

Your soil should consist of two very different types: one called “topsoil” and the other called “fertilizer.” The fertilizer comes in very heavy bags, but you should also be able to buy in smaller quantities. Try to buy the one for fruits and vegetables, not the kind for flowers.

You’ll also need gloves, though if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, that’s also an option.

The fertilizer should make up the bulk of your pot. If you’re using a piece of land, just replace the soil, and use that as your topsoil. Topsoil, as the name suggests, is layered on top. That type of soil is used to protect your corn from the weather and to deter some creatures. Topsoil should be at least an inch deep, but don’t overdo it. It’s usually very stiff, so it isn’t something your corn can move around in.

Step number two!

Step two is all about the seed itself and the process of getting it growing. This involves more than just simply plopping it into the land and “seeing the magic work.” You can work some magic too by placing your corn seed into a small container filled with tap water so that it can get a head start in the growing process.

Simply drop it in there, cover it with a lid, and let it sit overnight. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a small sprout start to bulge out of the seed which means the growing process has begun.

The next action is optional, but I encourage you to try it as it really does increase your chances of success with this crop. It’s called “germination,” a fancy word for sprouting.

You can place that wet seed in a small paper cup filled with fertilizer only. It should be an inch deep in loose soil that is soaked but not flooded.

Remember drainage! Just get a pencil or something to poke a hole underneath. This process takes about one to two weeks, but it’ll definitely show results in the long run.

Step number three!

Step 3 is transplanting that little guy after it begins to sprout. At this point, it will have leaves attached to its narrow stem which will take about 6 months to grow fully.

This part is not hard, but it requires you not to overdo it. You take your little guy, observe his roots, then slowly take apart the bottom just enough for those roots to spread outwards. It should look really fuzzy.

Make your planting hole in the pot or piece of land, which should be about 2.25 inches deep.

Now fill up the hole with that fertilizer and topsoil. Pad down the soil (but not too tightly).

Finally, you’re going to wet the area. (But don’t flood your seed out of the hole that you just put it in!) The water is going to fill up those air pockets, and you’ll see that you’re going to need just a little more soil.

And that’s it for planting your first corn plant!

In case you felt like one wasn’t enough, and you plan on planting more, I highly recommend you plant them at least 9 inches apart. Those leaves are going to get really, really big!

Below are extra guides to any problems you might have in the future of your crop:

Problem #1

Ants: You wouldn’t think they would be a problem, but these guys really do know how to start a party in your corn. Literally.

They will produce waste material in the corn husks and even sometimes carry eggs around the place. In general, you can’t do anything if they’ve already propagated throughout your piece of land or pot, but you could try some ant baits or pesticides that are safe around pets.

These had minimal success for me, but you should know that, when I harvested my corn, I didn’t find a single ant with the kernels. It turns out that ants aren’t successful at burrowing through corn! I would still regularly clean out your leaves, though, because the sticky black stuff builds up.

Problem #2

Hydration: Are my corn plants getting enough water?

Chances are, not at this point. Your plant is likely dehydrated if you observe that your corn leaves are feeling dry or hard.

The plant may also just have a dead branch, which happens a lot. The leaves get so huge that the stem can’t support the weight. Then, it just breaks along the midline somewhere in the leaf. Break off the dead parts, and continue to let your corn grow.

I watered my corn every 2-3 days as it matured. Take daily observations of your plant early on, and you can likely guess halfway through when it’s becoming dehydrated.

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We got lots of corn growing. Still learning about growing things as it's a nonstop learning process. I'm glad I read this article and I emailed it to my wife who's a REAL gardener.

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