PLANTING POPCORN IN YOUR GARDEN
POPCORN FACTS, GROWING TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS
Call Carl to order popcorn seed to plant at 608-335-2829.
Here’s a link to a website that gives info about
hardiness zones, which you can check out if you are not
sure of the area where you live.
What is Popcorn?
Classified as Zea mays, corn is actually a grass. Popcorn is Zea mays praecox and comes in over 100 different strains varying in flavor, tenderness, presence, or absence of a hull, shape, and color. No matter what it looks like on the outside, all popcorn pops up white or creamy yellow.
1. Popcorn Seed Selection
White and yellow planting zones: White popcorn can be grown in some northern states. 85 to 95 day or earlier maturing varieties are recommended for the northernmost areas. Yellow popcorn is longer maturing (950-105 day ) and therefore not recommended for areas north of HWY 10 in Wisconsin or north of the Twin cities in Minnesota.
2. Storage of Seed
After seed has been purchased, store it in a cool, dry enclosure free from pests.
3. Where to Plant Popcorn
At time of planting, ground temperature should be at least 55 degrees F. Soil temperature can be tested with a common thermometer, buried 1” under prepared soil of field to be planted. Test in several locations of the field to get an accurate soil temperature picture. Soil should be prepared as for field corn or sweet corn; plowed, disked and dragged to a fine, firm seed bed. Seed should be planted ½ “ to 1 “ deep in heavy or heavy black soils and up to 2” deep in light, sandy soils. Many types of planters are adjustable to plant both white and yellow popcorn, whether they are two row, four row or plateless air planters. Popcorn plates can be ordered from machinery dealers. Seed spacing should be 1 seed every 6” in a 40” row, or 2 every 12” in a 40” row, etc. Narrower rows, space seed further apart in row to provide adequate sunlight and root development. Planting too thick will reduce ear size and yield.
4. Soil requirements for Popcorn
An ideal is a pH of about 6.0. Popcorn is a fairly heavy feeder, not quite as bad as field corn, but needs some NPK additive. For the home gardener this means fertilizing in a manner similar to your sweet corn. Pay particular attention to making sure you have adequate nitrogen levels. Also, be aware that popcorn has a fairly shallow root system, so it can be forgiving of poorer soils, but will need adequate water as well. When planting put the seeds at one to two inches deep.
5. Germination of Seed
Germination takes longer for popcorn, so make sure the soil has warmed adequately before planting. Late spring is the best, but make sure the growing season left is long enough. Just as with sweet corn, you will want to plant in blocks, or rows of 4 or more to ensure the proper pollination of the corn.
6. Cross Pollination from other Plants
Don’t plant popcorn, sweet corn or field corn near one another, as they will suffer if there is cross pollination.
7. Harvesting Your Popcorn
It’s time to harvest when your popcorn kernels are hard, and the husks should be completely dry. After the ears are taken from the stalks, remove the husks. Drying can be done by putting the ears in a container that will allow air circulation. Every week, shell and try popping a few kernels. When your test kernels pop well, it’s time to shell the rest of your popcorn, and storing it so moisture can’t get in the containers.