From the Ground Up

Traits to Consider When Choosing Sweet Corn Seed Varieties

Sweet corn is a crop that has booming sales across the country. Everyone loves to go to the market in summer and get fresh-picked sweet corn for their summer picnics. Like any other crop, production, planning and preparation for the upcoming season are the most important steps you can take to assure a good crop. Here are some things that sweet corn growers should take into consideration when choosing sweet corn seed varieties for their business.

Sweetness – Make sure that your corn variety has excellent eating quality and sweetness. This is vital to ensure repeat business from consumers.

Sweet Corn Taste

Field Holding Ability
– If you are a small or one-person operation, picking sweet corn right on the maturity date can be challenging. Consider planting varieties that will give you a wider picking window, such as the augmented supersweet varieties.

Sweet Corn Boxes

Ear Size
- In my experience, I have found that if you are wholesaling to restaurants, they want a smaller ear that will fit on a plate with the best eating quality possible. With its shorter ear size, Mr. Mini Mirai is ideal for restaurant sales. At farmers’ market and roadside stands, the consumers are more likely to seek an impressive, large ear, which has a great eating quality. Keep these criteria in mind when selecting which sweet corn varieties to grow.

Mr. Mini Mirai Sweet Corn Seeds

Cold Soil Tolerance and Maturity
– If you tend to have cooler soil temperatures in spring and it’s tougher to get into the fields to plant, you may want to really look at sweet corn varieties that have good cold soil tolerance. You tend to see better cold soil tolerance with se and synergistic se varieties, but breeders are now introducing supersweet varieties that have decent cold soil tolerance. Most growers will plant early, mid-season, and late varieties to ensure a constant supply of fresh sweet corn throughout the season.

Dark Green Husk Package, Strong Tip Fill and Ample Flag Leaves – These are key traits that sweet corn growers are looking for. Having all of these traits in the sweet corn varieties you choose will make your corn a stand-out from your competition.
Sweet Corn Field
With sweet corn, ensuring that you’ve selected the correct varieties that will perform to their maximum potential is the key to ensuring you repeat business and bigger profits. Keep these things in mind when choosing which varieties to grow and you are sure to have a profitable season.

Mike Mangione
Regional Grower Advisor, Harris Seeds

Mike Mangione Mike Mangione is the Regional Grower Advisor for the Great Lakes region. Mike has been with Harris Seeds for 4 years, and has grown vegetables and ornamentals for many years. Specializing in product knowledge and support for professional growers, he holds a well-rounded understanding of the growing industry, from greenhouse and high tunnel production to field growing. With a passion for horticulture, Mike truly enjoys working with growers every day to help them realize their maximum potential and achieve a successful growing season.

Reliable Resources for Growing Vegetable and Flower Crops

If you are growing crops, any kind of crops, you know how many variables can come into play. Often they are beyond your control – the weather, market conditions, or new pests and diseases. Across these wide United States, the combination of variables is endless! Thinking about trying a new crop?  How does it perform in your area? Is there disease pressure reported on this crop? What is the market like? What is a grower to do? Smart growers benefit from anticipating the variables, finding the latest research, and planning ahead as much as possible.

For a reliable and objective resource, check with your local Cooperative Extension Service and your state’s Land-Grant University.  These are tremendous resources at your disposal, no matter where you live.  The mission of Cooperative Extension is research, education and extension, and they are doing great work to fulfill this mission!

Cooperative Extension     Cooperative Extension
Pictured: Cornell Floriculture Field Day (8/2016) and Cornell's New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva (9/2016)

Our system of Land-Grant Universities and Agricultural Experiment Stations was founded and grew through the late 1800’s, and was tasked with researching agricultural issues. The Cooperative Extension Service officially began with the 1914 Smith-Lever Act, creating a new partner to distribute agricultural information to the public. Today there remain Land-Grant Universities in every state. Find yours here.

As a New York state resident and Cornell University graduate, I can vouch for the broad ranging and useful work that Cornell Cooperative Extension and Cornell University are doing. They organize meetings and seminars across the state for all different types of crops and agricultural topics. They also conduct tours and host Q&A sessions on location at working farms. Not only will you glean growing and “how to” expertise, but you can gain a stronger foundation in agricultural economics. These gatherings are excellent opportunities for networking with other growers, farmers and industry professionals who are there to share information and experience. Cornell has a robust Small Farms Program, with regular emails and publications, packed with resources, updates and upcoming events.

So, if you have not already, look up your Cooperative Extension and make them a long term partner in your growing success!

Sue Guglin
Plant Program Product Manager, Harris Seeds

Sue Guglin is the Plant Program Product Manager at Harris Seeds and GardenTrends in Rochester, NY. Sue is a Cornell University graduate with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture. Her fruitful career in horticulture spans 30 years and has provided her the opportunity to work around the country in many climates and growing environments. Sue has experience working with plants, bulbs, seeds, and plugs and she looks forward to sharing her vast product knowledge and growing wisdom.

Homebuilt Germination Chamber for Small Farm, Cut Flower, CSA & Organic Growers

For my first contribution to the Harris Seeds Blog, I would like to share how I germinate peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants from seeds. This easy, speedy method has resulted in excellent yields throughout the years.

When I first began my career in agriculture, I worked for a large wholesale greenhouse that used a Biotherm heating system under their benches for the germination house. The house would hold approximately 1,000 plug trays for each rotation. On my farm, my production is smaller and I always have seedlings at various stages, which require different temperatures. The soil needs to be kept at about 80° F for pepper and tomato seed germination, however; cole crops, pansies, and petunias grow in the same starter house, which need a soil temp of 60-65°F to grow.

Many years ago, I built a germination chamber inside my seedling greenhouse by utilizing an old steel shelf I had in the barn and a piece of Styrofoam from a walk-in cooler. The rack is about 40” deep, 60” wide, and 96” tall. I placed the rack on a foam panel that is located on the ground. This acts as an insulator from the cold. I wrapped the rack in a sheet of row cover fabric and clear plastic sheeting. For extra heat, I have a small, electric milk house heater for cold spells and an inexpensive crockpot. On most days, the crockpot is very sufficient to maintain the soil temperature needed for the crops I am starting. The crockpot provides an even temperature and offers humidity. A soil thermometer is utilized to monitor soil temps.

Seed Germination Chamber

With an investment of less than $100.00, this germination chamber has been in use for over a decade. I start everything from petunias to seedless watermelons, and have even used this chamber for grafting tomatoes. Inside of the greenhouse there is no supplemental lighting, but in the basement of my home, I have a smaller version with mounted lights.

On average, I am seeing germination in 7 to 10 days for peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes and 3 to 5 days for cole crops and cut flowers. I highly recommend you try this very basic unit to get fast and reliable germination for a small scale or beginner grower. This method can also be used for organic seeds that do not have extra seed treatment protection as quick emergence is a bonus to get those seedlings off to a healthy, fast start. Once seedlings pop from the soil, you can simply place them on the benches in the greenhouse and start the next batch.

Jeff Werner
Assistant Vegetable Product Manager, Harris Seeds


Jeff Werner, Harris Seeds Jeff is the owner of Werner Farms, a diversified 115 acre, family run vegetable & bedding plant operation in western New York. Fresh market produce, cut flowers and plants are sold mainly through an onsite farm market & garden center, and at local farmers markets in the Rochester area. Jeff is a third generation Harris Seeds customer and is now the Assistant Vegetable Product Manager at the company. Since working for Harris Seeds since 2003, he has worn many hats and has gained experience in the germination lab, packaging, fulfillment, and trials. He remembers going to Harris Seeds as a child with his father and grandfather to pick up vegetable seeds and flower seeds for the farm. Many generations of Werners have trusted Harris Seeds to supply the seeds and plant material that enable their farm to succeed.