Dennis Gilson, the Front-Yard Farmer, shares information, local insight and advice about growing vegetables, berries and fruit trees in North Florida
By: FrontYardFarmer, 5:45 PM GMT on March 12, 2013
To me, summer without sweet corn growing in the garden is like the Fourth of July without flags and fireworks. Even if I grow an abundance of other warm season crops, my home garden just isn’t complete without this sugary summertime treat.
In north Florida, sweet corn is typically planted in about mid-March through late April. In central Florida, it is planted a month sooner. In south Florida, sweet corn is cultivated August-March.
Sweet corn does best when the soil has warmed up and all danger of frost has passed. So here in Niceville, which is located in northwest Florida, I like to plant sweet corn beginning in early April. Two or three weeks later I make one more sowing to extend the harvest.
The varieties of sweet corn recommended for Florida are Silver Queen, Gold Cup, Guardian, Bonanza, Florida Staysweet, How Sweet It Is and Supersweet. How Sweet It Is and Supersweet are two of the newer super-sweet varieties. The super-sweet hybrids (sh2) are true to their name – their juicy, sweeter-than-sugar kernels are a leap above even the popular high-sugar hybrids (su) such as Silver Queen.
The super-sweet corn I grow in my garden is called “Gotta Have It.” It is also known as “That’s Delicious.” No matter what you call it, this sweet corn is rich and full tasting, as well as being the sweetest corn I have ever eaten.
At five to six feet tall, the plants are shorter than most but they produce full size, eight inch ears filled with juicy yellow and white kernels.
And the outstanding flavor remains at its peak for days on end because this sweet corn is extra slow in turning to starch. If you like to put corn away in the freezer, there is no better choice than Gotta Have It. It really holds its sweetness and flavor (we enjoyed it all winter long).
To grow most varieties of sweet corn, I plant seeds about 1 ½ inches deep, spacing them about every four to six inches, in rows which are 30 to 36 inches apart. The final spacing between plants is generally 12 to 18 inches, though some varieties can be less.
Another method is to plant seeds in pairs at the final spacing distance, snipping off the weaker seedling with a pair of scissors.
Corn should be planted in blocks of at least 4 rows. This helps with pollination.
Your corn’s biggest enemy is corn worms. For spring planted corn, one application of Sevin when silks appear, and another a week to 10 days later usually does the trick.
Fertilize with 10-10-10 every three weeks. To help them better stand up to wind, I hill a bit of dirt around the stalks as they grow beginning when they are about 12 inches tall. Do not remove any suckers (this can lead to disease).
Most varieties of sweet corn mature in about 70 to 90 days. Harvest your sweet corn when the silks are brown and dry, and the kernels are milky when squeezed (some super-sweet varieties are more clear than milky even when ripe). Most sweet corn is mature 2 to 3 weeks after silks first appear.
Harvest the ears by twisting them down and away from the stalk.
Read more on growing sweet corn and other homegrown veggies on my Front-yard Farmer pages at Niceville.com, the homepage of Niceville, Florida.
Eat what you grow!