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You want to grow corn, but space is tight? Try containers.

It takes extra effort, but growing corn in containers may be the only way gardeners with limited space can get the unparalleled taste of a fresh ear of corn.

Bob Rosebrock of Malibu, California, whose method we show above, has been growing container corn for years. But instead of sowing seeds directly into a large tub or pot, he finds plants grow bigger and healthier if started in a small pot, then moved progressively into larger containers. His experience shows that keeping the roots slightly crowded to help plants adapt to container growing.

Because they're confined, potted corn plants need even more water and feeding than usual so their abundance of roots can find ready nourishment.

Mr. Rosebrock uses plastic 5- and 15-gallons cans (sold at some nurseries) because they're lightweight, easy to handle, and retain moisture better than wood or terra cotta containers.

Any variety of corn will do; for supersweet flavor, he prefers 'Illini Xtra-Sweet' and 'Honey and Cream'. He eats the fresh, tender ears without cooking, or mixes raw kernels into salads.

Four steps for growing container corn

Start with nursery-grown plants (be sure plants are young and not yet rootbound) or sow seeds yourself, spacing them evenly in a cell-pack or 6-inch pot filled with well-draining potting soil. To stagger the harvest, you'll need several pots, sowed successively every three to four weeks. (For a late-October crop, Mr. Rosebrock makes his last sowing by mid-August.)

For best results, move the young plants into the next container as soon as roots begin to crowd. Check the bottom of the containers; when white roots start to poke out of drainage holes, it's time to transplant. Before repotting, loosen roots.

To keep corn growing steadily and to produce juicy kernels, water frequently--once or twice a day in very hot weather. Every few days, spray foliage with water too. If water runs out the sides of the can without saturating the rootball, punch holes in the soil with a sharp plant stake.

Fertilize frequently to replace nutrients leached out of the soil. Mr. Rosebrock feeds once a week with a mixture of 12-15-15 fertilizer and liquid seaweed.

When tassels mature, you can encourage good development of the ears by hand pollination. Run tassels through your hand to strip them, then pour collected pollen over silks at the end of each ear.
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Date:May 1, 1985
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