The Q&A Archives: Teeny little ears of corn

Question: We planted the white sweet corn this year in a brand new garden. Our soil is good, but we added 3 sq yds of top soil, several bags of peat moss before planting. This is a large raised bed. The corn was planted in 4 rows approx 6 ft in length, as I had read that was better than longer & less rows.

But the ears, though perhaps 6-8 inches long, only about the lower 2-3 inches had kernels that filled out. On a couple of ears, the husk didn't even cover the entire ear, but one side of the ear & kernels were exposed.

We did pick & eat the teeny little ears; they were quite tasty, however it took about 6 of them to satisfy us. They looked real cute on the plate!

Do you have any suggestions? I look forward to your reply.



Answer: Corn produces best if planted in blocks rather than in rows. This is because they are wind pollinated and when planted close together, the pollen has a better chance of falling onto the silks. Here's a little background information: Each of the silks that protrudes from the ear is attached to the cob. When pollen drops from the tassels onto the silk it is transported to the ear where a kernel develops. If a silk does not receive pollen, you'll find a gap in the developed ear of corn. Now, back to the problem you describe. The potential kernels on the upper part of the ears did not receive their share of pollen and remained undeveloped. This might be weather related (extreme temperatures can render pollen sterile); strong winds can blow the pollen away from the corn plants, or it could indicate some cultural stress (not enough water) during development, or it could be that the silks were damaged (sunscald, insect activity) or were soggy wet when the pollen was released from the tassels. I can only suggest that you try again next year, planting early in the season so the ears are ready to harvest in July. Hope this information is helpful!

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