Days to maturity are calculated from date of direct seeding.
Hybrid SE/se Corn: The inherited sugar enhanced (SE/se) traits are what make these corn varieties unique. For starters, the kernel walls are the most tender of all corn varieties. Added to that are more sugars, making every ear as sweet as can be. After harvest, the conversion from sugar to starch in SE/se corn is delayed, so the corn maintains its sweetness longer after picking. To top it off, no isolation is required from other normal types of sweet corn, making SE/se corn very popular. For best germination, soil temperature should be at least 70°F.
Hybrid sh2 Supersweet Corn: The shrunken gene (sh2) gives the dried kernels an extra-wrinkled appearance. This inherited characteristic increases the sweetness of the corn at harvest time. Commonly called Supersweet, sh2 varieties are some of the sweetest corn available. They do not germinate well in cold wet soil, so make sure your soil is at least 70°F; use a soil thermometer if uncertain. To grow great Supersweet corn, isolate it by time or distance from any other corn.
OP Sweet Corn: For best seed saving results we recommend bagging plants to avoid cross pollination.
Ornamental Corn: Often used for decorating, but it also makes great cornmeal and corn flour. Grow just as you do sweet corn. The earliest plantings are preferred to ensure ample time for field drying. Ears may be picked after the husks begin drying. Isolation is necessary between varieties to preserve color combinations.
Popcorn: After picking and husking, spread the ears in a dry, airy place and allow to cure for several weeks. Test-pop a few kernels periodically to determine when the kernels are dry enough to twist from the cobs, store in airtight containers. Large quantities can be processed by placing into heaps and stomping the kernels off the ears. For best results, isolate from any other corn.
Synergistic Corn: Synergistic corn has 75% sugar enhanced kernels and 25% Supersweet kernels. It combines the exceptional tenderness and sweet corn flavor of SE/se varieties with the extra sweetness, extended shelf life and field-holding ability of sh2 varieties. For best results, isolate Synergistic corn from any other corn. For best germination, soil temperature should be at least 70°F.
• Corn performs best in fertile, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0-7.0
• Corn is a heavy feeder requiring high amounts of nitrogen during the vegetative stage
• Waiting for soil to reach optimum temperature is critical to successful corn growing
• Corn is wind pollinated, for proper pollination plant individual varieties in blocks of at least 4 rows
• Separate varieties by time (plant 10 days apart), or distance (200 feet) to reduce cross-pollination
• For optimum growth ensure beds are watered evenly and deeply
• Make row furrows about 6-8 inches deep
• Spread 3-5 pounds of TSC’s Complete fertilizer per 100 square feet
• Back fill the furrow, then sow seeds and cover with soil or sifted compost
• Thin seedlings when 4-5 inches
• Start indoors 2-3 weeks before desired transplant date
• Avoid letting starts get root bound and avoid damaging roots when planting
Insects & Diseases
• Common insects: Corn borer, corn ear worm
• Insect control: Pyrethrin, applied before silking, Monterey B.t. to silks
• Common diseases: Blight, rust, smut
• Disease prevention: 3-4 year crop rotation, remove old stalks in the fall, and contact your local extension agent with specific issues
Harvest & Storage
• Harvest when kernels are full and milky
• Drying and browning of ear silks is also an indicator of maturity
• Ears should be cooled as quickly as possible and stored at 36°F
KEY TO CORN DISEASE RESISTANCE AND TOLERANCE
HR indicates high resistance.
IR indicates intermediate resistance.
MDMV | Maize Dwarf Mosaic Virus
NCLB | Northern Corn Leaf Blight
R | Common Rust
SCLB | Southern Corn Leaf Blight
SW | Stewart’s Wilt
- Growing Home Garden Sweet Corn
- Types of Sweet Corn
- Soil Preparation
- Maturity and Harvest
- Recommended Varieties for the Georgia Gardener
- Silver Queen Corn
- Kitchen Garden Seeds
- My Secrets To Growing Sweet Corn
- HK Blog
- Silver Queen White Sweet Corn
- Silver Queen Information – Tips For Growing Silver Queen Corn
- History of Silver Queen Corn
- Growing Silver Queen Corn
Growing Home Garden Sweet Corn
Circular 905 View PDF picture_as_pdf
Robert R. Westerfield, Extension Horticulturist
- Soil Preparation
- Maturity and Harvest
- Recommended Varieties for the Georgia Gardener
Nothing can compare to the fresh, sweet, crisp taste of homegrown sweet corn that is picked and eaten on the same day. Sweet corn is certainly a favorite crop among home gardeners and, with the many varieties now available, there is one to suit every taste and need. Sweet corn is not difficult to grow and, by following the cultural guidelines provided in this publication, you too can enjoy this sweet delicacy.
Types of Sweet Corn
Sweet corn may be divided into three distinct types according to genetic background: normal sugary (su), sugary enhanced (se) and supersweet (sh2). There are also varieties now containing a combination of either two or all three of these genes, exhibiting qualities of each. These are sometimes designated as synergistic (sy) or augmented supersweet (shA.)
Standard sweet corn varieties contain a “sugary (su) gene” that is responsible for the sweetness and creamy texture of the kernels. Su’s are best suited to being picked, husked and eaten within a very short time. The sugar in Su varieties converts to starch rapidly, allowing them to be stored for only a few days.
Sugary enhanced hybrids contain the sugary enhancer (se) gene that significantly raises the sugar content above standard varieties while retaining the tenderness and creamy texture of standard varieties. No isolation from standard varieties is necessary.
Supersweet hybrids contain the shrunken (sh2) gene, which delays the conversion of sugar to starch, allowing them to stay sweet longer than su varieties. The kernels of the supersweet varieties have a crispy, tough-skinned texture and contain low amounts of the water-soluble poly-saccharides that impart the creamy texture and “corn” flavor to other sweet corn varieties. Although the lack of creamy texture is not especially noticeable in fresh corn on the cob, it affects the quality of frozen and canned corn, as does the toughness of the seed coat. Unless corn must be stored, shipped or mechanically harvested, se’s are superior in eating quality to sh2’s.
Supersweets (sh2) should be isolated from any other type of corn tasseling at the same time to ensure sweetness and tenderness. Their pollen is weak and easily supplanted by other types, which causes the kernel to revert to a form with the toughness and starchiness of field corn. Because corn is wind-pollinated, this isolation distance should be 500 feet or more, especially down-wind.
Many new varieties contain two or all three types of genes. These may be called by several different terms including mixed gene, multi-gene, synergistic, sweet breeds, and extra tender, among other names. All of these should be isolated in the same manner as the sh2 varieties.
Sweet corn thrives best in loamy, well-drained soils but will tolerate a wide range of soil types. Optimum pH ranges from 6.0 to 6.5.
Till the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches using a spade, plow or rototiller. Avoid tilling the soil while it is too wet or large clods may be formed.
Sweet corn is a warm-season vegetable requiring soil temperatures between 60-90 degrees F. Avoid planting seed in cool soils. Wait until at least two weeks after the last average killing frost before planting. If planted too early, weak stands, stunted growth or frost-killed seedlings may result. The newer, sweeter varieties are even more sensitive to cool, wet soils and may not perform well in these conditions.
Plant corn in an area that receives at least 8 to 10 hours of sunlight. It is beneficial to plant near a water source for needed irrigation.
Plant seed approximately 1 inch deep in rows 3 feet apart with 8 to 12 inches between each seed in the row. A hand pushed mechanical planter can make seeding much easier for larger stands of corn (Figure 1).
Corn is wind pollinated, so plant four or more short rows of sweet corn side-by-side instead of one long row. This will aid in good pollination and ear development (Figure 2).
Figure 1. Hand pushed mechanical planter.Figure 2. Plant several short rows.
Plant sh2 and multi-gene varieties 400 yards away from standard varieties, or plant so maturity dates are 1 month apart to avoid cross pollination.
A soil test through the local county extension office is always the best way to determine the lime and fertilizer needs. If lime is required, it can be tilled into the ground during soil preparation but is most effective when applied 2 to 3 months prior to planting.
If a soil test is not done, a general guideline is to apply 6 pounds of 10-10-10 per 100 linear row feet before planting. Fertilizer can also be broadcast at a rate of 30 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Sidedress two to three times during the growing season with ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) at a rate of 3 to 5 pounds per 100 feet of row. More frequent sidedressing may be required on sandy soils or when excessive rain occurs. Sidedressing involves digging a shallow trench on one side of the row, near the plant, and applying fertilizer. It is then covered with soil (Figures 3 and 4).
Figure 3. To sidedress, dig a shallow trench along the row and apply fertilizer.Figure 4. Cover the trench with soil to complete sidedressing.
Water is vital to ensure a good stand of corn. Corn requires a minimum of 1 inch of water per week for normal development. The most critical periods for water are during pollination and during final ear filling.
Water sufficiently to moisten the soil to a depth of 6 inches. Irrigate in the early morning or early evening to allow foliage to dry before dark. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation placed alongside rows are an excellent way to irrigate corn and conserve water.
Keep rows clean and free from weeds. Light, shallow tilling between rows can be done, but take care not to get too close to the root system of the corn. After cultivating with a tiller or hoe, mound soil 2-3 inches up around the base of the plants to support stalks from wind damage. On small stands of corn, where it is practical, place organic mulches around plants to help conserve moisture and control weeds. Chemical herbicides are also available to aid in weed control.
Maturity and Harvest
Sweet corn matures in 60 to 100 days, depending on the variety. For a continuous harvest, plant early, mid and late season varieties or make successive two-week plantings of the same variety.
Sweet corn should be ready for harvest about 20 days after the appearance of the first silk strands. Sweet corn is picked during the “milk stage,” when the kernels are fully formed but not completely mature. Sweet corn is ready to harvest when the silks become dry and brown and the kernels are smooth, plump and pop open when punctured with a thumbnail. Not every ear in the row will be ready at the same time and they may mature several days apart.
After picking, cook and eat corn right away or store it in cool temperatures, such as in a refrigerator, as soon as possible. It can then be canned, frozen or eaten fresh within a few days. Keeping the corn cool is the key to better flavor as high temperatures will convert the sugar in the kernels to starch, giving it a bland taste. Although many new varieties have extended storage quality, most lose 50 percent of their flavor within 12 to 18 hours of picking if left unrefrigerated.
Common cultural problems of sweet corn include poor kernel development caused by dry weather during silking, planting too close, poor fertility, too few rows in a block causing poor pollination, and lodging (falling over) from too much nitrogen and/or wind damage.
High temperature and poor water management during the tasseling stage can cause poor pollination and fewer kernels on the ears. Insects such as Japanese beetles can also affect kernel pollination by eating the silk.
Common insect problems that will be encountered in sweet corn include corn earworm, aphids and flea beetles. Cutworms, seed-corn maggots, Southern corn rootworm, wireworms, fall armyworm, European corn borers and Japanese beetles may be encountered as pests of sweet corn.
Check with your local county extension agent for recommendations for controlling and preventing these pests.
Sweet corn is seldom seriously damaged by diseases in the home garden. The following proper cultural practices can reduce or prevent many potential disease problems:
- Obtain seed from a reputable seed source and use fungicide, pre-treated seed to reduce problems with damping-off.
- Plant when the soil temperature is above 55 degrees F to reduce most seedling rots.
- Keep the garden free of nearby weeds, which can harbor viruses.
- Remove corn smut-infested ears promptly from the stalks and garden area.
- Remove plant debris after harvest to reduce diseases that may over-winter in the old stalks.
Recommended Varieties for the Georgia Gardener
|Variety||Days to Maturity||Gene Type|
|Honey Select||79||Triple Sweet Hybrid|
|Mirai 131||69||Triple Sweet Hybrid|
|How Sweet It Is||87||sh2|
|Butter & Sugar||75||su|
|Serendipity||82||Triple Sweet Hybrid|
|Honey ’n Pearl||76||se|
|Sweet Breed Chorus||67||Multi Gene Variety|
|Mirai 301||76||Triple Sweet|
|Peaches & Cream||83||se|
Status and Revision History
Published on Dec 15, 2006
Published on Oct 13, 2009
Historic/Archived on Dec 01, 2012
Published on Oct 15, 2019
Published with Minor Revisions on Oct 17, 2019
Silver Queen Corn
Light requirements: Full sun for best yields.
Planting: Space 8 to 12 inches apart, depending on type. (Read the stick tag that comes with the plant for specific spacing recommendations.) Extend the harvest by setting out plants weekly for a month or more.
Soil requirements: Corn needs moist but well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Amend soil with compost or other organic matter prior to planting. Soil pH should be 6.0 to 6.8. In coldest regions, warm soil with black plastic for one week prior to planting.
Water requirements: Fuel corn’s fast growth with consistently moist soil. Shallow roots make plants susceptible to drought. Mulch soil to reduce water evaporation, but wait until soil has warmed before covering it.
Frost-fighting plan: Corn can be damaged by light frost (28º F to 32º F). If a surprise late spring frost comes into the forecast, protect seedlings with a frost blanket.
Common issues: Watch for corn earworms, aphids, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, and cutworms. Use a barrier fence to deter deer and raccoons. Diseases to be on the lookout for include corn smut, leaf blight, and rust. In poorly draining soil, fungus diseases can attack seedlings. If gusty summer storms blow corn plants over, they will usually right themselves after a few days of sunny weather. If pollination is an issue (corn is primarily wind-pollinated), grow corn in blocks of short rows instead of one long one. Don’t plant different types of corn close enough to cross-pollinate or flavor can change.
Harvesting: Ripe ears feel full and rounded; silk should be dried and brown on the ends. If you’re unsure, poke a kernel with your fingernail. Corn is ready if sap is light and milky Clear liquid means the ear isn’t ready. Corn is sweetest in the early morning; pick ears first thing for best flavor. To harvest, hold the corn stalk with one hand; use the other to pull the ear down and away from the stalk, twisting until it breaks off.
Storage: Keep corn in the husk until cooking. Refrigerate harvested ears right away. While sweetness should last about a week, corn tastes best eaten as close to harvesting as possible.
For more information, visit the Corn page in our How to Grow section.
Kitchen Garden Seeds
Sweet Corn Sowing Instructions
Planting Depth: 1″-1 1⁄2″
Row Spacing: 24″-30”
Seed Spacing: 3″-4”
Days to Germination: 4-14 days
Germination Temperature: 60°-80°F
Direct-sow Corn when the soil is reliably warm, above 60°F, well after the last spring frost date. Prepare a well-draining area with rich soil in full sunlight. Amend the soil as necessary with organic fertilizer, compost and/or well-rotted manure. Corn is pollinated by the wind, so grow a minimum of 4 rows, even if they are short rows, to ensure good pollination. If the weather gets wet and cold, you might want to re-seed just to be safe since Corn has a long maturation cycle. After thinning to 10″ to 12″ between the plants, water regularly and mulch with hay or straw to deter weeds and retain ground moisture. Corn is particularly hungry for nitrogen: feed regularly as needed.Harvest when the silk begins to turn brown and a kernel, pinched with your fingernail, releases its sweet,milky liquid.Harvest shortly before cooking by holding the stalk and twisting the ears off at their bases.
Note: Try growing Corn in the ancient “Three Sisters”method: in hills spaced 5′ apart, sow 3 seeds in the center of each hill. Sow 6 Pole Bean seeds adjacent to the Corn seeds and then sow Pumpkin or Winter Squash seed in the valleys between the hills. The Beans will scramble up the Corn and the Squash will ramble on the ground, creating a living mulch.
Winning the Corn Olympics
Corn is easily grown by sowing it directly into the ground. This is the simplest, most logical way to grow Corn. But if you’re in a race to be the first in your neighborhood with Sweet Corn, try this trick. Since Corn needs a much warmer temperature to germinate than it does to grow, start the seeds indoors and then transplant them into the garden the minute you see the Sprouts emerge. This must be done immediately, since the little seedlings grow quickly and can easily become potbound.
In July or August, after the Corn crop is well on its way toward harvest time, set out some Broccoli transplants in between the rows. The shade cast by the cornstalks will help keep the Broccoli from going to seed in hot weather. After the Corn has been picked, cut the stalks down and turn the space over to the Broccoli, which will bear a nice fall crop. A Bean crop would work also, but choose a bush variety. Vining Beans will climb all over the Corn plants and fell them like timber.
Cooking Tip: Uncanny Creamed Corn
Why do most people think creamed Corn always comes in a can? You’ll never touch that sweet, gummy stuff again after you’ve tried creaming fresh Corn. Just cut the kernels off the cob and simmer them in cream until the kernels are cooked and the cream has reduced and thickened. No sugar needed!
Today’s article comes to us from Jeff who lives just outside of Evansville, Indiana, and it’s all about growing sweet corn!
We absolutely loved Jeff’s story about growing up in a garden-crazy neighborhood, and how he is now carrying on the traditions of a home garden like his parents and grandparents did. we especially love that he still has and uses his grandfather’s hoe!
It seems as each week goes by, we continue to learn more and more from gardeners just like Jeff.
When we first started This Is My Garden just a few months back, this is exactly what we had in mind. Gardeners sharing their gardening knowledge. It is a beautiful thing! So why not share your gardening story with us as well? Check at the end of the article to see how you can!
Now, let’s get to Jeff and how he grows his sweet corn!
My Secrets To Growing Sweet Corn
Jeff – Evansville, Indiana
Growing Zone 6
To me, there is nothing quite like growing your own sweet corn. The sweetness of biting into a just-picked ear of corn is something that takes me back to my childhood.
I grew up with a family of gardeners. My parents gardened, and both of their grandparents gardened as well. I think every neighbor had a garden as well from what I can remember. There was always a big competition every single year to see who could grow the most and the biggest. They are fond memories that I relive now with my own garden.
One thing my dad and grandfather always loved growing and eating was sweet corn. Nothing can beat the taste of an ear that was just picked. My grandfather and dad wouldn’t even wait sometimes until it was boiled, eating it right off the stalk to enjoy it. I, however, still like mine boiled. We plant the same way they did, and it has always worked really well. Here is how we plant:
Plant In Blocks
Corn needs to be pollinated, and the best way to make sure it happens is to plant it in blocks. When growing our corn, we plants in 6 x 6 blocks. There are 6 rows that are each 10 to 15 feet long, and they are 6 rows wide. I think the biggest mistake people make is to just plant a single long row, or just a double row. My dad always told me it should be at least 4 rows wide, and my 6 row system seems to really work for us.
Cow Manure – Our Big Secret
So, our biggest secret is aged cow manure! It works wonder in replenishing the soil for what corn takes out of it. My family has been using it for years as our corn fertilizer and it hasn’t failed us yet.
Corn is a heavy feeder, and so the soil needs to be replenished each season. We also rotate our corn blocks in our garden to not try to grow it in the same spot for a few years.
Early in the Spring, we till in old cow manure that we get from a farmer down the road. Farmers are usually more than happy to give it to you if you are willing to get it.
It is not as bad as it sounds, aged cow manure is always dry and loads easily. We use big metal trash cans and fill them up and then till it into the rows in the early spring.
When the corn gets about two feet high, I go back and get a little bit more of the dry old manure and put a bit more on top of the soil in the rows by each plant. This helps to give a little more fertilizer as it rains and breaks down. It may sound crazy – but cow manure is where it’s at for corn!
When we plant our rows, we seed a little more than we need. Corn seed needs to be directly planted in the ground. It does not transplant like other vegetable plants. We sow our seed about two weeks after the last frost. We plant a seed about every 4 inches and then thin them to every 8 once they come up.
We plant our seeds in a 1 inch trench we dig in the ground with my grandfathers hoe. It is amazing to still use something so old to carry on the tradition.
We grow a bi-color called Peaches and Cream, a white corn called Silver Queen, and a black popcorn that we love called Dakota Black.
Don’t Harvest Till You Need It
One final tip for sweet corn, try to harvest only what you need when you need it. We plant our sweet corn blocks so a few weeks apart. That way we get to enjoy it longer.
The second you take corn off the stalk, it starts to lose sugar and flavor. The same goes for when we can and freeze. We try to pick the morning we are going to can and freeze to get that incredible flavor.
I hope you enjoyed my tips, and good luck growing sweet corn! – Jeff
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The history of Maryland’s famous Silver Queen sweet corn is truly the story of America itself!
America was built on the principles of democracy – we scorned and rejected England’s monarchy and vowed to never let one power reign supreme unchecked. But in the realm of sweet corn in Maryland, one lady had ultimate power for 20 years, a respectable dynasty by most first world standards. The Silver Queen Corn in Maryland finally fell to the power of the people and the spirit of capitalistic competition in the most recent decade. According to the State Department of Agriculture, Silver Queen sweet corn has fallen to more popular strains, such as Argent and White Magic, and the Silver Queen must rest on her laurels, gracefully defeated.
Why Silver Queen?
For over 20 years, Silver Queen was the big name in corn production here in Maryland. With an especially long season, from June to early October, it’s been the strongest corn crop and the longest available harvest. Crab feasts are almost always accompanied by Silver Queen corn, or at least they were before farmers on the Eastern Shore started growing other varieties. Places like the Eastern Shore adhere heavily to their traditions – black-eyed Susans, Maryland blue crabs, rockfish, and sweet, pearly Silver Queen, with its glorious 8-9” long ears, planting adaptability, and short harvest time of 92 days. Marylanders grew attached to not only the tender, silky taste, but the comfort of the name. Silver Queen corn is what your parents brought home, what you bought from vendors on the side of the road, what you grilled with your friends on the weekend.
Stepping Out of The Way
As agricultural techniques have advanced, we’ve begun to lean less on our old standby, Silver Queen corn. We’ve made way for its descendants – Argent, White Magic, 81W. These strains have come to be considered sweeter, stronger, and more resilient strains. Silver Queen is hardly ever grown anymore, although imposters are still touted as they attract the stubborn, loyal subjects of Her Majesty, which was first introduced in 1955. However, new varietals of sweet corn convert less starch to sugar, and retain their sweetness for longer if kept in the husk, sometimes up to four weeks longer. Silver Queen, like all great empires, must fall and bow at the feet of a new generation of stronger, more adaptable rulers.
Find Delicious Maryland Silver Queen Sweet Corn at Hearn Kirkwood!
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So that’s what he grows — ”a dozen or more different varieties each year,” he said, ”always trying new things, looking for the best.” Varieties that take as little as 72 days to reach maturity go in as soon as the soil is warm enough (March 24 this year) to meet the first big surge in demand, which comes on July 4, followed by successive plantings that make it possible, in good years, to harvest corn until Thanksgiving.
Mr. Redman owns 40 acres, his family owns 400 and he farms a total of 1,000, including rented land. Most of it is planted in wheat, soybeans and field corn (which goes to help feed the millions of chickens raised on the Eastern Shore by Perdue and other big operators). But the most profitable if most labor-intensive crops are the sweet corn, melons, tomatoes, beans, berries and peppers that Mrs. Redman loads each morning onto three farm carts, fitted with little tin roofs as protection against the heat. Hooked up like circus wagons, they are trundled behind a tractor out onto Route 20 and parked at the roadside. Each day, Mr. Redman picks the corn varieties that seem ripest, and whatever ears remain unsold at day’s end are fed to the animals.
Mrs. Redman is also one of the 20-odd vendors at the Chestertown Farmers’ Market every Saturday. None, she said, sell Silver Queen. They sell mostly numbered hybrids, but also Bodacious, Incredible and several varieties whose names sound to me as if they might well have been concocted to confuse the unwary: Silver King, Silver Cloud, Silver Princess, Silver Bullet.
The Redmans’ plain-spoken neighbor Gerald Barry, who runs a little store near Rock Hall, told me: ”What happened to Silver Queen is exactly what happens to last year’s cars. Newer, better models come along. You can get away with calling the stuff Silver Queen anyway, because most customers don’t know what Silver Queen looks like. They’re blind men trying to choose between a Chevrolet and a Ford.”
Farther south, at the harborside St. Michaels Farmers’ Market, part of a regional network called Freshfarm Markets, Charlene Dilworth of Sand Hill Farm in Greensboro sells only the new white varieties.
Silver Queen White Sweet Corn
Zea mays 1 oz packet sows 25 ft, 1 lb sows 400 ft. Seeds per packet vary, open-pollinated selections average 100 seeds/oz, normal sugary varieties 140 seeds/oz, and SE cultivars with shrunken seeds 150-160 seeds/oz. We do not offer supersweets as these are poorly adapted to cold soils without using seed treatments.
Culture: CAUTION: Untreated sweet corn seed will not germinate in cold wet soil. Please be patient and wait till soil warms to at least 60° before sowing, or start seedlings indoors and transplant at 3–6″ before taproots take off. Tender, will not survive frost. Heavy nitrogen requirements. Rows 3′ apart, 4 seeds/ft. Thin to 1′ apart. When corn is knee-high, sidedress with azomite or alfalfa meal to stimulate growth. Plant in blocks of at least 4 rows to ensure adequate pollination, essential for good tip fill. If you lack sufficient space for enough plants for good pollination, try hand-pollinating by cutting off the tassels and shaking their pollen onto the silks. Sweet corn is ready 18–24 days after the first silks show, the exact time dependent on the weather in the interim. Press ears 2″ from the tips to assess kernel fullness. Harvest when the kernels are plump, soft, tender and filled with a milky juice. Most sugary enhanced varieties have an optimal picking window of 5–7 days, but some open-pollinated selections hold only 1–2 days.
Minimum soil temperature 50°, optimal temperature range 60–95°.
Identification and history: Seed catalogs in the 1800s featured “Indian Corn,” decorative multi-colored ears with soft starchy kernels easily ground into flour or with flinty kernels often used to make corn meal and grits (680-695); dent corn with indented kernels eaten fresh or roasted in the milk stage or used to make flour, corn meal, grits and cereal; field corn for animal forage and silage; and sugar corn, forerunner of today’s sweet corn. Sweet corn seed, probably originally a mutation of flint or dent corn or both, first appeared in commerce in 1828 and became popular a generation later. As sweet corn became the first crop to be hybridized, most of the open-pollinated varieties disappeared between 1930 and 1970. All sugary enhanced sweet corn traces back to a single inbred developed in the 1960s in Illinois by Dr. Dusty Rhodes, ILL677a. Our trialers have found SE corn to be especially suitable to our climate, with good cool-soil tolerance and a near-perfect blend of sugars and corn flavor.
Testing: We randomly test sweet corn seed for transgenic contamination. To help ensure the purity of our seed, we have for the past sixteen years employed industry leader Genetic ID to test random samples of our sweet corn lots for the presence of transgenic contamination. Because of the risks posed by production of genetically engineered Roundup Ready beets, we have added beet and chard varieties to our GE testing program.
We remove any lots that test positive for transgenic contamination.
A negative test result, while not guaranteeing genetic purity, improves your chances that the seed is uncontaminated. These tests are expensive, but in a time of genetic roulette, they are necessary though not sufficient to assure seed purity. Only if the seed trade takes an adamant position that we will not tolerate GE contamination in our product can we maintain any integrity in our seed supply.
Silver Queen Information – Tips For Growing Silver Queen Corn
Up until fairly recently, Americans’ favorite sweet white corn was Silver Queen. Today, this hybrid is queen in name only and has been usurped by other sweeter, stronger and more resilient strains of corn.
History of Silver Queen Corn
For over 20 years, Silver Queen reigned supreme and was the biggest name in corn production in Maryland. A long season corn, the sweet plump kernels were well worth the wait. Harvested from June to early October, Silver Queen was THE corn everyone wanted, as steeped in tradition as other stalwart rituals such as Maryland blue crabs and black-eyed susans.
Alas, all good things must come to an end and such is the case with Silver Queen. It is no longer available at the roadside farmer’s stands that city dwellers once flocked to in search of Silver Queen corn. It has been replaced with more popular strains, albeit strains descended from Silver Queen. Varieties such as Argent, White Magic, Silver King and the mundanely named 81W now reign supreme.
Why isn’t Silver Queen the queen bee anymore? Like all old-fashioned corn varieties, Silver Queen loses its sweetness and freshness rapidly. At 86 F. (30 C.), half the sugar turns into starch within 24 hours from harvest.
So, in the interest of corn that will stay sweeter longer, scientists developed sugar-enhanced hybrids with higher sugar content and creamy texture as well as supersweet hybrids with even more sugar and crisp kernels.
These new hybrids have a longer life both in the field and once harvested – two weeks rather than two days, and they are more resilient when shipped. Some are even more disease resistant and some are designed to grown more vigorously in cool spring soils.
Growing Silver Queen Corn
For those folks who still dream of what once was the ultimate sweet corn, all is not lost. Seeds can still be obtained so that you can grow your very own Silver Queen corn. This corn is as pretty as it is tasty and is also resistant to bacterial wilt and Helminthosporium fungus.
Sow seeds after the last spring frost in your area when the soil has warmed in an area with full sun. Space plants 8-12 inches apart with a minimum of four rows to ensure pollination. In about 92 days, the five-foot stalks will be peppered with large 8- to 9-inch long cobs jammed with sweet, crisp tender white kernels begging to be steamed and slathered with sweet, creamy butter.