Pat Patterson's love of sweet corn affected her choice of houses when she moved from New York City to Orange County. "That was one of my major criteria: There had to be enough space to grow corn," she recalls.
Pat waits until around June 1 (after the soil has had a chance to warm up) to start planting corn. She soaks her seed for 24 hours before planting so that she gets fast, even germination. "It's up and growing in 4 or 5 days instead of two weeks," she observes. She continues to make succession plantings in blocks of at least four rows to assure good pollination.
"And contrary to popular opinion, you can transplant corn," Pat says. "It's more labor intensive, but you can get very even spacings with no gaps if your space is tight." She's used 6-packs or 72-cell packs, transplanting the corn with it's about twice a tall as the depth of the cell. "If the roots are starting to come out the bottom, you've waited too long," she cautions.
Pat grows both modern hybrids ('Silver Queen' is one of her favorites) and heirloom varieties, such as 'Country Gentleman.' She has no need to grow "supersweet" hybrids that stay sweet longer after harvest, because her corn goes straight from the garden into the pot.
Any drawbacks? "The heirlooms lack the disease resistance of most hybrids," she notes. Plus corn is a heavy feeder, so Pat doesn't skimp on the compost at planting and also sidedresses some soluble nitrogen fertilizer early in the season. "You also have to keep the corn watered," she says. "But it's all worth it because it just doesn't get any better than home-grown sweet corn."
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