when to plant corn in tn

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When to Plant Corn in Tennessee?

Introduction

When to plant corn in TN is key to a successful harvest. You need to know everything to ensure your corn thrives in the Volunteer State.

Understanding Tennessee's Climate

Tennessee has long, hot summers and short, mild winters. You should consider the specific characteristics of each region. For example, the last expected frost date in the spring and the first expected frost in the fall. East Tennessee experiences a bit more frost than the west. The central region generally has milder weather.

square foot gardening corn

When to Plant Corn in Tennessee?

Factors Influencing Planting Dates

Frost is a mortal enemy of young corn. Unexpected chills can stunt growth, or worse, kill the tender seedlings. Hence, the 'last frost' date in your region is a beacon. For most parts of Tennessee, the risk diminishes by late March, marking the start of the planting season.

Conversely, soil temperature is the friend corn needs to get a head start. Soil temperature should consistently be above 50°F, with 60°F being the sweet spot for germination and early growth.

Planting Schedules for Different Regions

West Tennessee: Characterized by flatter land, West Tennessee typically sees the safest planting window between mid-March to early April. You can start planting earlier with a longer frost-free period compared to other parts of the state.

Middle Tennessee: The rolling hills and varied terroir of Middle Tennessee call for strategic planning. The best time to plant corn in Tennessee usually occurs in late March to mid-April. This overlapping with some seasonal risk but also maximizing the growing season.

East Tennessee: The mountainous region of East Tennessee presents its own challenges. Frost threats linger longer, so you need to wait until late April to plant. But you also benefit from the cool summer. It can extend the suitable growing season.

Considerations for the Plateau: The Cumberland Plateau, a major topographic feature in the state, demands specialized attention. Here, frost threats can extend well into spring, sometimes until May. Thus, the planting schedule typically spans late April to early May. This relies on a robust late-season growth phase.

Recommended Corn Varieties for Tennessee

Hybrid Versus Heirloom Corn Types

Hybrid corn is a result of crossing two genetically different corn lines. It has high yields and disease resistance. So hybrids are a popular choice for modern commercial farming.

Heirloom, or open-pollinated, varieties offer traits developed over time. They often favored their unique flavors and characteristics. Heirloom varieties are suitable for artisanal markets or home gardeners.

Traits to Consider When Selecting Corn

When choosing a corn variety, consider the climatic features of your area, the growth habits, maturity period and intended use. Tennessee has diverse growing conditions. So some varieties may be better suited for the hotter and drier western regions. While others may thrive in the cooler and wetter climate of the east.

Pay attention to the days to maturity of the corn variety. For instance, early-season varieties may be the best bet for northern and higher-elevation areas. Mid and late-season types can be more appropriate for the south.

Preparing for Planting

Soil Testing and Amendments

Testing to determine soil pH and nutrient levels. Corn thrives in slightly acidic soil with a pH 6.0 to 6.8. Fertility is equally important. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are the macronutrients. Amend your 20 gallon flower pot soil after testing. Adding lime to raise the pH. Applying fertilizers to meet the nutrient needs.

Weed Control

Weeds can drain on the resources that your corn needs to grow and mature. Tilling the soil in the autumn can help control the weed population slightly. But use a pre-planting herbicide for a truly clean start.

Another strategy is to manage the weeds in advance with cover crops. For example, rye or clover. This can suppress weed growth and contributes to soil health.

Treating Seed for the Best Start

Seed treatments can protect against soilborne diseases and early-season insects. This promotes a stronger, more uniform stand. Treated seed can also help establish a crop in variable conditions.

Equipment and Techniques

The most advanced piece of planting equipment you own is your planter. Ensure it's in top condition, with all the necessary maintenance and adjustments done before the season starts.

Planting Techniques and Tips

The Method to Plant Perfect Corn

Seeders are the conventional choice for planting corn in Tennessee. These machines enable the precise depth and spacing crucial for good corn development. 

The Rule of 2 and 2

Plant your corn seeds about 2 inches deep. Space 8 to 12 inches apart, with rows space roughly 30 inches. The 'Rule of 2 and 2' is a good baseline. But fine-tune it based on your seed's size and environmental conditions.

Watering Balance

Corn seeds in 1.5 gallon pots need moisture to germinate. But too much water can lead to rot. Avoid planting during periods of heavy rain. Make sure the soil is not excessively wet.

Managing Corn Throughout the Growing Season

Fertilizing

Fertilization in the early stages of corn growth. Applying nitrogen-rich fertilizers at planting. Side-dressings help the plants during key growth stages.

Watering

Your crops will get the water at the right time with modern irrigation techniques. For example, center pivot systems and drip irrigation.

Battling Weeds and Pests

Weed competition can harm corn yields. In terms of pests, scout your fields regularly for signs of insect damage. You should also employ integrated pest management practices.

Common Corn Diseases

Common diseases include southern corn leaf blight, gray leaf spot and northern corn leaf blight. You should identify these diseases early. This can prevent widespread impact on your crop.

Disease Prevention Strategies

Consider planting disease-resistant varieties and rotating crops. Ensure proper plant spacing for air circulation. You may need to apply fungicides for these diseases. You can also use other management practices recommended by agricultural authorities.

Harvesting Corn

Harvest Signs and Techniques

Knowing when to harvest is crucial. Look for visual signs that the corn is ready. For example, the kernels hardening and the husks drying out.

There are various techniques for harvesting. For example, the old-fashioned hand husking method and the use of modern mechanical combine harvesters.

Drying and Storing Your Harvest

Quickly dry the corn after harvest. Too much moisture can lead to mold. You can dry corn with forced-air drying systems. The ideal storage conditions ensure the corn maintains its quality until it's ready for market.

Conclusion

This detailed guide provides a strong foundation for growing corn in tennessee. This ensures your fields yield a bumper crop.

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