Introduction: Growing and Freezing Sweet Corn
One of the main staples we grow here on the homestead is sweet corn. We use a rather tight planting pattern and have a fertilizing and weeding schedule we'll explain as we go. We also touch on freezing sweet corn as perhaps the fastest and easiest way of preserving your harvest....
Step 1: Selecting You Corn Plot
Planting corn will begin with selecting where you want to grow. You'll want to select a spot that receives full sun for the majority of the day. You'll also want to take note of which direction your primary wind normally comes from and align your plot so that the wind strikes the small end of the plot and not the broad face of the plot. This will allow the stalks to support each other. You'll also want to have your soil tested, marking on your test request that they specifically test it (and make suggestions for amendments) specifically based on growing sweet corn. Avoid loose or sandy soil. These do not hold roots well in the event of wind. You'll also want to amend your soil with higher nitrogen greens like grass clippings, as corn is a heavy nitrogen feeder. Taking care of your soil between seasons allows you to start with deep organic rich soil such as our corn plot (pictured).
Step 2: Seed Selection / Corn Type
Next, you will need to select what type of corn you want to grow. We grow a hybrid super sweet bi-color suitable for our area. I would prefer not to answer what type it is because:
*** 1) You need to select what type of corn fits your desired outcome (ie, small kernel corn is good for eating, large kernel corn is good for cutting from the cob and canning, etc)
*** 2) You need to select a corn suitable for your area, and perhaps even your soil type.
*** 3) There are just so many other considerations such as growing shorter corn in high wind areas, fast maturing corn in shorter growing season areas, etc...
The best advice I can give you is to look around from year to year. See who is growing corn successfully and ask them what type they are growing. Or talk to your local co-op. They are usually well informed and full of useful advice. Or, speak directly to a knowledgeable representative wherever you order your seed from. You may even what to order 2 or 3 varieties of your "best guess" and just see what grows best for you. Taking the time to talk to local people or knowledgeable sales reps can save you a lot of heartache in the end - and I am dodging the question on purpose, so as not to be the cause of that heartache.
Step 3: Plant and Row Spacing
This is about as un-technical as it comes... I have kept these two pictures for years after a friend called me one day while I was in the garden, asking how far we space our plants and rows... I had no way to measure for her, so these two pictures were my response... Inevitably, I hear that this is too close... That the corn wont develop... And any number of other things... I will simply offer up our results... We plant our corn 1 1/2" deep, and at the spacing above...
Step 4: Fertilizing Your Corn
We fertilize with 36-0-0 three times. Once before planting. The second times when the corn is between 12" and 18" high (this is also when we do our one and only weeding). And the third time, when the corn tassels and begins to form ears. This is the trade off to planting as tight as we do - the corn needs to feed. The benefits are higher production from the same space, and less watering and weeding as the corn shades the patch and limits air flow. "Smut" is a fungus / mold that affects field corn, and they fight it with air flow and sunlight, which is why they use the broad open spacing they do. Smut is not common to sweet corn. Another benefit to the spacing is that the pollen from the tassels must fall on the silk of the ears to ensure full ears of corn. This is done by wind, and the tight spacing is great for ensuring the ears are well pollinated (Mythbuster: Bees collect corn pollen but do not pollinate the ears - they are in no way attracted to the ear silk where it needs to go). It is difficult to over fertilize corn, but should you see any signs of leaf burn, then water heavily for a few days while the corn plants adapt...
Step 5: Naysayers / Results
Results usually speak for themselves. "Knee High By The Fourth Of July" is the saying I grew up with. I will simply say that it is possible to do better. We take a lot of pride in our sweet corn when neighbors assume we are growing field corn rather than sweet corn due to it's health / height. I little effort and and lot of love go a long way. We water once per day, deeply, and in the morning. Morning water allows the roots to chase the water downward as the plot dries through the day, making for a deep healthy root system. You can also see that the corn in the last picture is picking up the nitrogen from the last fertilizing and is so healthy that it is nearly blue-green in color - not a bad state to be in while the ears are forming, which is what we are after...
Step 6: When to Harvest
The best rule of thumb I know is that once the kernels soften to where you can cut them with a fingernail and the juices come out milky white, then your corn is ready for harvest. This is usually 21 days after you see about 25% of your ears have produced silk. This is when we begin testing anyway, and we test every other day after that point. We then pull all of our corn at once. We count on that plot to produce 1200+ ears of corn per year, so it is a monumental day, and takes a lot of teamwork. All the stalks are cut off at the ground and tied into bundles to dry. The birds seem to enjoy playing in them until fall. Once brittle, and easily broken by the tiller, they are turned back into the corn plot to return that nitrogen to the soil. The ears are shucked outside as well, and are turned into the garden along with the corn root balls, where they will compost until fall when combined with the stalks, and all are allowed to break down over the winter. The ears, once shucked and placed on trays, are then taken into the house to finish processing. The sugars in sweet corn quickly turn to starch, so even though it is a long day harvesting, the corn must still be processed quickly... It is a lot of work in a short time...
Step 7: Sorting Your Corn
Once indoors, the sorting process begins... Any small and immature ears (usually the smaller second ear on the stalk) make for good canned baby corn and creamed style corn. And mature ears that failed to fill the ear or suffered damage to the ear - those can have their kernels cut from the ear and used in things like canning "end of harvest" vegetable soup. Nothing goes to waste. But the very best ears, those we set aside for freezing whole and enjoying through the year....
Step 8: Blanching Your Corn for Freezing
The first step to freezing sweet corn is to arrest or stop the enzyme that will quickly convert the sugar in the kernels into tough chewy starch. This is done by blanching, which just means it is placed into boiling water - the water is returned to a boil - and they are held there a set amount of time. For corn, we usually blanch for 4 to 5 minutes. You are not trying to cook the corn, just kill the enzyme that will ruin it. You will notice that your corn will take on a richer color as you blanch it (color contrast in pics). Use a timer, you do not want to leave the corn in boiling water too long....
Step 9: Cool Down and Drying
Once the corn comes out of the boiling water from being blanched, the next step is to halt the cooking process immediately so that you don't overcook your corn. We use a large cooler full of ice and water to chill the corn as quickly as possible. (Note: If you have a bunch to do, make sure you have plenty of ice on hand) Once the corn is fully cooled, remove it from the ice water and stack it on a towel to dry. Water on your corn will freeze and break down the texture during freezing, so you want to allow them to dry well before moving forward...
Step 10: Vacuum Sealing Your Corn for Freezing
We like to vacuum seal our corn full length and in numbers we will use for a single meal. You can also use heavy freezer bags for this process. One trick to using freezer bags is to place the corn in the bag, then seal the bag with a drinking straw sticking out. Then use the straw to suck the air out of the bag, closing immediately as you pull the straw out (while still sucking). With either method, removing as much air as possible is the name of the game. We then like to get them into the freezer as quickly as possible. Corn will keep in the freezer for up to a year... We prefer to use our frozen corn within 6 months while its at its peak, and then fall back on our canned corn for the remainder of the year until we can do it all again... Well... That is about it....
Step 11: Summing Things Up...
We hope that you enjoyed this Instructable and found at least some of the information of use. Sweet corn is a staple here on the homestead, and we take a lot of pride in being able to bring in a good harvest year after year. We hope this will help you do the same... You can help us too, by considering the following:
If you would like to help support our efforts, we are YouTube content creators that rely on the support of potential viewers like you. Our homesteading channel name is: Bumble Bee Junction. By watching our videos, giving them a Thumbs Up, and leaving us your comments on the videos you really help us out ~ and we appreciate it very much. Please consider subscribing to our channel. It is just two mouse clicks. First, Click Here to go to our channel homepage. Second, just look for the red "Subscribe" button and click it. That's it. And you will be notified any time we release a new video. Our main topics are: Cooking, Canning, Gardening, and Homesteading in general. Please do consider subscribing, we would really appreciate it... Thank you !
We appreciate you spending your time with us !
Mark and Tina
Bumble Bee Junction
A Disabled Veteran Owned East Tennessee Homestead
Step 12: For More: Please Subscribe Using the Instructions Above. Thank You.
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.