How late can I plant corn?

gamebirdJuly 1, 2009

I have some late season corn that takes 88 days to maturity. It's called silver queen. What's the latest I can plant it around here that it will reliably get mature?

I have a spot where the basil didn't sprout and I have an extra packet or so of silver queen corn seed. If there's still time, I could start it growing.

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Last year I planted some 85 day corn at the beginning of August, and I will probably do it a week or so earlier this year just to make sure. It seemed to mature a little faster than it would have if planted in spring. It required a lot of water, and seemed to not tolerate close planting as much as the spring crop, maybe because the sunlight is not as intense/long in Spetember/October as in May/June.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 12:31AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

The standard advice is to plant fall sweet corn 85-90 days before your "average first frost" date. Since Silver Queen is such a late-season corn, you might want to plant it 95-100 days before your first anticipated freeze date there.

I tend to plant sometime in the first two weeks of August or can go into the third or fourth week of August if I am using a very fast-producing corn like Early Sunglow. I'm a week or two later than you and Scott in terms of fall planting dates due to my more southern location and later first freeze dates.

I do agree with Scott that fall sweet corn grows quite differently from spring sweet corn. If your ground is dry at the time of seeding, water it pretty well a couple of days before you plant and it wouldn't hurt to pre-soak the seeds to speed germination too. If the seed germinates too slowly and causes the crop to be late, you could lose it to a frost before the ears mature.

The key with fall corn is you don't want to plant it so early that it is tasseling during periods of high temperatures (those much above 90 degrees) since those high temperatures can cause pollination issues with some varieties. That's why we OK gardeners generally aren't planting our fall corn in late June or in early- to mid-July. We don't want it to pollinate too early while high temps are an issue.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 11:09AM
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rookiegardener29(zone 6)

Can we start germinating now?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 12:24PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Do you mean germinating corn seed or something else? Let me know.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 12:38PM
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So the stuff I planted a couple weeks ago might have issues with pollination, unless we get a mild week at the right time?

I guess I'll wait until the end of July before planting the rest of it.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 4:48PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

It depends on the variety, but yes, research has shown that once temperatures go above 95 degrees, sweet corn pollen has issues. This is one reason people sometimes have ears that don't fill out well if they pollinate in high heat. I have found this to be true in my garden. Some varieties seem to pollinate very poorly in heat and some don't seem as bothered by it.

Keep in mind that it is usually the high heat in combination with drought and/or low relative humidity that most affects the viability of pollen. As long as nights remain relatively cool, your corn might pollinate in the cool morning air, especially if the soil is nice and moist and the RH is higher.

Many scientists believe corn pollen is "killed" in temps over 95 degrees, but I am not sure if it is truly killed or just impeded. I have had some heirloom corns pollinate in 100 degree heat, but then the nights were only in the 80s, so that may have helped.

Usually, here in Love County we are hot and dry with relatively low humidity in July and August and that does seem to affect the corn pollen. You might have more summer rain (?) and higher relative humidity there, and that would work in your favor.

When I grow Silver Queen,I usually plant in late March and harvest in June so it generally is pollinating before too much heat arrives. Thus, I don't know how affected it is by the heat.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2009 at 5:39PM
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