Are you loving the taste of your freshly grown corn? You have spent time planting, tending, and harvesting, and you are now an expert on all-things-corn.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to sit back and wait for it to regrow next year.
Corn does not grow back every year because it is an annual crop, not a perennial crop. That means that you must go through the planting process every year if you want a new crop. You will need to remove the stalks and fertilize your soil in preparation for the next season.
Don’t get despondent – it is worth the effort. Just think of that delicious, hot corn, dripping with butter and sprinkled with herbs and salt.
Read on to learn what to do with your plants and how you can ensure that you will have corn the following year.
What to do with the stalks?
After harvesting, your corn garden will look rather sad and sparse. It is filled with empty stalks and bare patches of ground. These stalks are known as stover and you do need to clean them up. Getting the family involved is a great way to exercise in the fresh air.
Your first thought may be to dig up the stalks and throw them away. But, a much more environment-friendly idea is to use stalks as organic matter to fertilize your soil for next year.
For best results, you need to dig up the plantation area leaving the stover in the ground. This is going to ensure that your soil has natural nutrients when you come back to plant corn the following year.
If you are serious about your corn plantation and if you have a relatively large area to cultivate, you can invest in a rototiller. This is a machine that will chop up the stover and loosen up the soil.
Like most garden tools, rototillers come in a range of sizes and prices. For a home garden, you will do well with a small machine that has a cultivating width of 12 inches and a cultivating depth of 8 inches. (Consider the option of gas as opposed to electrical machines. You don’t want to end up cutting your cable while digging up your corn patch.)
Plan to do two passes with your rototiller (or the shovel). The first run will coarsely cut up the stalks and leave them lying on the ground. At this stage, you can spread organic manure over the area and leave it to settle.
After two weeks, repeat the rototilling exercise. By now, you will be an expert. This run will chop the stalks even smaller, loosen the soil, and mix the stalks into it. Nature will take its course. Earthworms, beneficial bacteria, and microbes will break down the stalks into a rich organic matter, ready for next year’s planting.
Saving corn to plant for next year
A smart way to ensure that you will have a new crop of corn next year is to save some seeds from your current crop. This is also a great way to save money, as you won’t have to buy new seeds from the nursery.
Saving seeds is not difficult but does require some planning.
Before harvesting your corn, choose some of the best ears and put them aside. Look for ears that are strong, medium to large, and are full.
You now need to dry out your corn. You can do this by leaving them outside in the sun if you are sure you are not in for a rainstorm. A better idea is to hang them upside down in a sheltered place where you have airflow. This is important as you want the ears to dry out and not become damp and moldy.
After a week or so, you will see that your corn has dried out and you can easily remove the kernels by pushing them off the cob with your fingers. Collect them in a gardener’s tray where you can spread them out.
Allow them to dry for a further 2 to 3 weeks in a well-ventilated space.
Clean off the kernels by removing any bits of cob and corn silk that may have adhered to them.
Now, pack your seeds away in a clean, airtight container. Store the container in a cool, dark place until you are ready to plant them.
Do corn plants grow back?
After harvest, corn plants won’t grow back. During their lifespan, however, they may grow back under a few conditions.
If a hail storm damages your young plants, there is a good chance that they can grow back. If you trim your young plants, they will also grow back, but this is not a recommended activity. Rather spend time trimming your roses, they will respond more positively.
If you have green fingers you can get corn plants to grow back by using cuttings from the original plants.
Cut off a piece of strong stem and allow the cut end to dry in the sun for a few days where it will form a callous.
Prepare a biodegradable pot for planting. Fill it with rich organic soil and water well. Dip the cut end into a rooting hormone solution and plant it into your new pot.
Tend it as you would for any fledgling plant. Corn does not enjoy being transplanted. Biodegradable pots can be planted directly into the soil and will degrade without causing harm to the environment.
How to make the soil richer and more fertile for next year’s crop?
Corn is a crop that does best in well-draining, medium-textured soil that is very rich in organic matter. The soil should have a neutral PH value of around 6.0 to 6.8.
Natural compost is great for corn. If you have a small corn garden, consider making your own compost using a home compost bin or a worm factory.
If you prefer to buy compost, look for organic mixes that won’t add chemicals to your soil. Keep in mind, that the rototilling process inherently makes your soil richer, by using the leftover stover from the harvest.
Is this worth the trouble?
While there are easier crops that you can grow, nothing beats the warm, feel-good experience of roasting corn over a campfire with friends and family. The taste of your home-grown corn is nothing like you have ever tasted from the local grocery store.
It is certainly worth giving it a try. Start with a small patch and increase the size next year once you see how well you are doing.
Now go and sow, so you can reap later!