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Zone 6A

I have a small plot of land 8' x 25' fully enclosed since birds are a real threat here. Soil has been amended with horse manure and tested by Penn State extension annually.

The variety I sow is Silver Queen (su variety). The seeds are treated and harvested less than 200 miles from me, same zone too. The first planting starts around mid-May and the 2nd planting is around June 1. Due to my small plot size, I space the seeds about 5 inches apart in every direction. Germination is nearly 100%. The close proximity helps to keep the stalks from falling over. When the pollination phase begins, the tassels open about 5 days before the silks appear. So by the time the silks are just about fully exposed the tassels have already exhausted all their pollen.

Pollination is never going to be 100% but I would say 60%-70% is my success rate. The ears are full and plump but only at the bottom 3-4 inches. The two inches at the tip are pollinated but the kernels are small and underdeveloped. Waiting on these kernels to develop would cause the kernels at the base to turn chewy and starchy.

I should also mention I only get one or two (rarely) ears on each stalk. I know a larger plot of su corn would be very beneficial but I don't have the space. The sweetcorn is very good and I'll continue to grow it. I'm trying to get the most bang for my buck with the small plot I have. One more thing, I have to plant in the same plot because it is the only space I have that is protected from the birds. Soil is amended to withstand a consecutive year of corn. Tips and tricks would be appreciated!

  • Does the close proximity of ~5 inches, stunt the development of the pollination phase? Development of the ears?

  • Would sowing earlier or later cause the pollination phase to change? (i.e. tassels open later and silks emerge earlier)

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  • Other than a bit of corvids plucking the seedlings, (which could be dealt with by floating row cover for a month or so if at a problematic level) birds are a complete non-issue with my corn less than 200 miles from you. Deer and raccoons are another matter.
    – Ecnerwal
    Sep 30, 2022 at 12:31
  • What depth do you plant the seeds?
    – Jurp
    Sep 30, 2022 at 13:32
  • Most rows in non-mechanized corn plantings are in the 15-20" apart range (they're usually 30-36" in a typical farm field). You say your plants are 5" apart - does this apply to the rows, too?
    – Jurp
    Sep 30, 2022 at 13:38
  • @Jurp seeds are soaked in distilled water 12 hours before sowing. Planted about 2 inches deep. 5" apart in every direction (columns and rows). It is very dense. Just trying to make the most out of the small plot that I have.
    – giuseppe
    Sep 30, 2022 at 14:34
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    5 in. is too close for rows. the space is needed for the pollen to fall down onto the silks of the ears. I learned when i did that in my small garden the first couple years. Sep 30, 2022 at 18:02

2 Answers 2

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In agriculture, a "narrow row" planting for corn has the rows 30 inches apart. There are also farmers going for rows 20 inches apart, but no closer. Your rows are 5 inches apart, way too close together to give you a good yield. It's also recommended that plants be spaced 6-7.5 inches apart within each row when using narrow spacing (5-5.5 inches apart when planting in rows 40 inches apart), so again, you're planting too closely together.

Generally, corn plants too close together compete against each for nutrients, water, and sun. In addition, because corn is wind-pollinated, too-close spacing actually dampens the effect of wind on pollination. See here for more details on some of this. Note that one authority on home-gardening stated that you should just follow the spacing and row widths as stated on the seed packet.

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Jurp has good and accurate information for your corn growing. The spacing of the corn plants is critical to their good growth and 5 1/2" is overly tight. Now that you have tested that, you can do further experiments with more distance between the plants. The dimensions Jurp mentions are certainly what agriculture practice has been. You may find that if you keep your soil rich and nutrified you can 'push' your yield and plant count - but it will be by trial and error. Make good observations. I would recommend hand pollinating the corn yourself to ensure good complete pollination. You have a very small plot.

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    – Community Bot
    Feb 28, 2023 at 22:05
  • Please explain who or what Jurp is. Mar 1, 2023 at 1:55
  • Jurp is one of the other people who answered the question and made comments
    – KRay M
    Mar 1, 2023 at 7:11

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