Planting Corn: Tips For Growing In The Garden / On Balcony
Many only know the golden yellow fruit from the field. You can also plant maize yourself. Find out here which varieties are suitable for growing in the garden and on the balcony and how to properly fertilize and care for maize.
Maize ( Zea mays ) belongs to the sweet grass family (Poaceae ) and, as a grain, is one of the most important staple foods in the world. The culture originally comes from Central America. Today, maize varieties are mainly grown in our fields, which due to their high starch content are used as fodder crops or as a renewable raw material for the production of biogas, biofuel, or biomaterials. As a grain, corn is one of the most important staple foods and is consumed in many different forms.
The best types and varieties of corn to consume
There is a wide variety of types and varieties of corn. They can be classified according to their grain type, which in turn gives rise to various uses: grain maize is ground into dough and bread, soft maize is used to make tortillas and hard maize is used in the form of maize starch for cooking and baking. We also love puffed corn in the form of popcorn and we enjoy sweet corn, for example as grilled corn on the cob. The specialty of sweet corn, also known as vegetable corn, is that the sugar stored in the grains is only slowly converted into starch during ripening. That explains the pleasantly sweet taste of the corn kernels.
Corn varieties for the garden
If you want to plant maize in your garden, the normally sweet sugar maize variety ‘Golden Bantam’, which has been known since 1902, is suitable. Compared to other types of sugar corn, it has a long harvest window from the beginning of August to mid-October. Since the sugar quickly turns into starch after harvest, the corn should be consumed as fresh as possible.
The very early variety ‘Ashworth’ ripens around two weeks earlier than ‘Golden Bantam’ and is particularly suitable for cooler regions of Germany. It reaches a height of about 1.50 meters.
The medium-ripe ‘Mezdi’ variety is particularly sweet. In contrast to ‘Golden Bantam’, the sugar is only slowly converted into starch here. The height is up to 180 centimeters.
Small varieties of corn for the balcony
For the balcony, for example, the early-ripening sugar corn variety ‘Damaun’ is suitable due to its medium-high growth. The corn cobs are also a bit smaller than those of the later varieties.
With a height of only 40 centimeters and a ripening time of only 55 days, the very early ‘Yukon Chief’ variety is also impressive. It forms six to eight centimeters large, golden yellow, sweet corn on the cob.
If the pistons don’t necessarily have to be classic yellow, the varieties ‘Jade Blue’ with blue pistons and ‘Luther Hill’ with white pistons are also available. They are also small and can therefore be planted well in pots on the balcony.
In warmer regions, the corn kernels can be sown directly in the prepared bed or the pot on the balcony. Here, however, it depends on the optimal sowing time. If the seeds are sown too early, there is a risk that the early development of the plants will be disturbed by temperatures that are too low. The maize plants should therefore be preferred to a sheltered place, especially in cooler locations.
When do you plant corn?
Sweet corn needs sufficient warmth and should only be sown or planted when the days and nights are frost-free. With direct sowing, you can sow the corn kernels as early as the end of April if you then protect them from the cold with a cover. Without a cover, sowing takes place in early to mid-May. If the plants are brought forward, you can start in mid-April and plant the young plants two to three weeks later in the field or a pot. Only early and mid-early varieties are suitable for growing maize in Germany, as the vegetation phase is simply too short for other varieties.
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Tip: Bringing young plants forward has a decisive advantage when growing maize compared to direct sowing. Due to the time advantage, the maize will ripen more safely by the end of the vegetation phase.
Growing maize: location and procedure
Choose a sunny spot for the corn in your vegetable patch or on the balcony. Sweet corn is particularly in need of warmth and needs temperatures of 24 to 29 ° C and plenty of suns to develop well. Corn is a heavy consumer and has high demands on the nutrient content of the soil. This should be deep, nutritious, humic, and moist. Our peat-free organic universal soil is ideal for planters on the balcony.
Prefer corn plants:
- Time: mid-April
- Fill the seed pots about 10 cm high with seed soil
- Place the corn kernels with the point downwards at a sowing depth of 2 – 3 cm and a distance of 5 cm from each other; cover with earth
- keep soil moistured
Transplant maize plants:
- Carefully remove the maize plants from the seed containers
- Place in the ground at a distance of 45 cm
- Press the plants on well and water them
Tip: By placing the root ball a little deeper in the ground than in the seed pot, the maize plant can develop additional lateral support roots.
- Time: late April to late May
- Place corn seeds at a distance of 45 cm
- Seed depth: 3 cm
- Cover the grains with soil and press lightly
Tip: Depending on the temperature, the seeds should be covered with a plant fleece for the first few days outdoors.
Since the sweet corn plants are pollinated by the wind, planting in groups is better than planting in rows. This arrangement is intended to ensure mutual pollination. To avoid pollination by low-sugar agricultural maize varieties, it is also advisable to keep a distance of around 500 meters from the next maize field.
Summary – planting maize:
- Sow maize: late April to late May
- Plant maize: Grow young plants in mid-April and plant them in the bed or the pot 2 to 3 weeks later
- Sunny location; nutrient-rich, humus-rich, and deep soil
- Distance between plants: 45 cm, sowing depth: 3 cm
- Planting in groups to ensure pollination
Maintain corn in the garden
To ensure optimal development of the plants, you should regularly remove weeds, especially at the beginning, or prevent them from multiplying too much and competing with the maize plants for nutrients and light utilizing underplanting or mulching. In addition, maize needs an adequate water supply and the occasional application of fertilizer to be able to optimally exploit its yield potential.
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Water the corn plants regularly, but be sparing. Maize is relatively drought-tolerant, but persistent water shortages lead to reduced yields. You should therefore moisten the soil, especially in dry periods, but avoid waterlogging.
Like all maize varieties, the sugar and vegetable maize varieties are also among the heavy eaters. They absorb a lot of nutrients and should already be supplied with a slow-release fertilizer when planting. Alternatively, compost is also suitable. At the beginning of flowering, it is advisable to add another fertilizer.
Harvesting corn in the garden
Depending on the variety, the harvest time for sweet corn is between the end of July and the end of September. Unlike puffed maize or grain maize, sweet maize is not harvested when it is fully ripe. The right time to harvest sweet corn has come when it has reached the milk-ripe stage. You can tell when milk is ripe when the grains have already reached their final size and their varietal color. However, they can be easily crushed between the fingers and the grain content is milky. The leaves and spindles are still green. Only the grain threads that protrude from the tips of the leaves-covered pistons have already dried up brown-red. Harvest the corn by simply cutting the cobs off the plant or twisting them from the leaf axils.