How to Grow Maize at Home? To attain its greatest potential, sweet and juicy maize requires a sheltered and sunny location. It also demands rich soil (or should be fed nitrogen-rich fertiliser on a regular basis) and does not thrive in dry or heavy soil. However, given the correct conditions, maize is a great addition to your kitchen garden among other veggies such as onions and broccoli. We asked the experts for advice on growing Maize.
How to Grow Maize at Home?
1. Choose Your Maize Variety to Grow Maize at Home
When deciding what sort of maize to cultivate in your own backyard, consider the sweetness of the cob and the hardiness of the plant.
Traditional maize types’ sugar begins to convert to starch as soon as it is picked, so you must eat it fresh to acquire that sweet flavour. If you crave sweetness, go for a super-sweet variety, which is labeled’sh2′ in seed catalogues. If you want traditional maize, search for the’su’ symbol next to the seeds. These have the added benefit of being more vigorous than younger varieties.
The duration and relative temperature of your region’s growth season are important factors to consider. Maize grows best during long, hot summers; you may maximise your growth season by purchasing early, midway, and late cultivars.
‘Choose extra-early ripening cultivars if you live in northern or colder regions of the nation,’ recommends Ed Bollom, Head Gardener at Gordon Castle(opens in new tab) in Scotland, which provides online fruit and vegetable growing courses. ‘However, in practically any section of the country, you can learn to grow enormous, excellent cobs.’
2. Sowing Maize Inside to Grow Maize at Home
Knowing when to grow maize is all about watching the weather. Corn is a fragile crop that is prone to frost, so either wait until all danger of a cold snap has passed, or start your seed indoors from mid April to May.
‘Be patient and don’t spread your seedlings too early,’ Ed Bollom advises. ‘We start our sweet maize in a greenhouse at Gordon Castle in May, but a nice sunny windowsill will suffice.’
Kate Turner, horticulturist and ‘gardening guru’ at Miracle-Gro and Love the Garden(opens in new tab), recommends sowing the maize seeds, or kernels, one at a time. ‘From April to May, sow seeds indoors in good quality compost in modules, commonly known as seedling planter trays.’ ‘I would suggest spreading each seed separately since they dislike root disturbance,’ she explains. ‘Germinate on a warm, bright windowsill or in a propagator.’
You can plant the kernels in pots instead if you don’t have modules.
‘Place two seeds in a 3.5 inch pot of multipurpose compost, about 0.5 inch deep,’ Ed suggests. ’ They usually germinate in about 10 days, at which point you should carefully pick out the weaker of the two seedlings if both have germinated. ‘Grow them for a few weeks until they are approximately 8 inches tall and their roots begin to sprout out from the bottom of the pots.’
When the weather permits, begin hardening off the plants before relocating them to your vegetable garden outside. ‘This entails gradually acclimating them to the outside, so you take them out throughout the day (but not in direct sunlight), then bring them in at night.’ ‘Do this for approximately a week,’ Kate suggests.
3. Sowing Maize Outside
From April through June, maize seeds can be sown directly into the ground. Alternatively, once your seedlings have hardened off, transplant them into the ground. Make sure the soil is healthy, clear of weeds and stones, and in a warm, sunny location.
‘Select a sunny location that is protected from severe winds,’ suggests Lucie Bradley of garden supply business Two Wests (opens in new tab). ‘Most soil is ideal for sweet maize ; just make sure it drains well and holds plenty of moisture.’
‘Before spreading your seeds, add plenty of nutrients and organic matter, preferably from a well-made compost, followed by a generous quantity of plant food.’ Maize is wind pollinated, therefore planting it in squares rather than rows will enhance the likelihood of a cob developing.
‘Maize should be planted in a grid pattern so that pollen from the male “tassels” at the top of the stalks can pollinate the “silks” lower down on neighbouring plants,’ adds Ed Bollom. ‘At least three or four rows with 14-15 inches between plants and rows are required.’ They have shallow roots and can be top heavy, so compact the soil carefully before planting.’
4. Caring For Maize
The key to producing high-quality cobs is to maintain your plants well-watered as they mature. ‘If the weather is dry, water your soil on a frequent basis, especially when you are establishing your plant,’ adds Lucie Bradley. ‘To protect the plant from severe winds and hard weather, cover the roots with earth and pile it up.
Feeding your maize is essential for extra care. ‘When planting, add a feed like Miracle-Gro Performance Organics Fruit & Veg Granular Food to the ground, then once they start producing cobs, give them a weekly liquid feed using something like organic Tomorite,’ recommends Kate Turner. Slugs and snails enjoy the new seedlings, and mice adore the kernels, so keep a watch on your crop.
Lucie also offers another advice for growing maize that will ensure a nice crop. ‘Tap the male plants to help with pollination,’ she suggests. ‘When the tassels open, you can do this.
5. Harvesting Maize
When the tassels at the end of the cob have started to dry up and turn brown, your maize should be ready to pick about eight weeks after planting. Pull back the leaves and put your fingernails to the test…
‘Press your fingernail into one of the maizes to see if it’s ripe,’ says Ed Bollom. ‘They are ready to eat if the liquid that runs out is murky.’ The maize is not ready to eat if the liquid is transparent.
‘Always twist the cob off the stem,’ Kate Turner advises. ‘And don’t harvest them before you need them since the sugars quickly convert to starch and lose their deliciousness.’ If you need to store them, blanch the entire cob in boiling water for 4 minutes, drain well, and then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.
Also Read: How to Grow Potatoes in a Container?