Growing and Harvesting Popcorn

Popcorn is one of those crops that can last all year long until your next crop if you dry and store it correctly. And, as with any vegetable, growing your own offers more opportunities to try different delicious and unique types. Kids love to grow popcorn as well. There is something satisfying about picking off the dried kernels, jarring them up, and popping your first batch of buttery homegrown popcorn.

Planning one’s popcorn crop starts in mid-spring, just before corn planting time. There are several seed vendors that sell favorite, reliable varieties for new-time growers–Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Harris Seeds, High Mowing, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Jung’s, and others. Many have something unique for popcorn connoisseurs as well. Most offer miniature varieties as well as large-kerneled types. I like big, fluffy popcorn, so these are the varieties I like to grow and promote.

Six Top Popcorn Varieties

‘Mini Blue’ is an unusual heirloom popping corn that yields earlier than most.

‘Dakota Black‘ (95 days) is a beautiful heirloom popcorn with lustrous black kernels that are medium-sized and extra delicious when popped. The attractive ears are 5-6 inches long when mature.

Early Pink‘ (85-95 days) has large, mauve-pink kernels that make truly lovely decorative corn until the wintertime when you can hull it for crunchy popped corn. The ears reach 5-7 inches.

Mini Blue’ (80 days) has large blue kernels on  4-inch ears that pop up into light, fluffy, flavorful popcorn. The plants are noted as being productive.

‘Mushroom’ (103 days) gourmet popping corn forms big, round, fluffy popped corn that is delicious. It has yellow kernels, long ears, and is recommended for kettle or caramel corn because it is easy to sugar coat.

‘Robust 997’ (112 days) is a reliable classic popcorn variety with yellow kernels that are large and tender when popped. The high-yielding plants bear lots of 7-8 inch ears.

‘Top Pop’ (100 days), the name says it all. It has large yellow kernels that pop up into light, tender popcorn. The plants are also productive and vigorous. It is my top pick for new popcorn growers.

Growing Popcorn

Productive popcorn stalks may produce up to five ears or more.

Plant corn in the ground in late spring, once the soil is warm and frost is through for the season. (Click here for your last frost date.) Popcorn needs full sun and weed-free vegetable garden soil that drains well and has average fertility and a neutral pH. Work Black Gold Natural & Organic Compost Blend into the soil before planting to increase fertility. Plant the seeds about 2 inches deep and 12 inches apart; keep them lightly moist for good germination. You will need at least three rows of six plants for reliable pollination and lots of ears of popcorn. Corn plants require heat, so once the temperatures rise, they will take off. Keep them regularly watered during times of high heat and little rain.

Popcorn Pests

There are several pests to watch out for, including corn earworms, which eat the ears from within. Apply Bacillius thuringiensis (BT), which is approved for organic gardening, to the young tassels to keep these pests away. The common fungal disease, corn smut, will distort the ears, but it is edible (read about edible corn smut here!). Fungal northern corn leaf blight may develop under cool, wet weather conditions and cause leaf lesions and seedling death. The bacterial wilt called Stewart’s wilt is less common but deadly and will cause whole plants to unexpectedly wilt and die. Choose resistant varieties if wilt and blight are problems in your area. Corn-belt states (western Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, eastern Nebraska, and eastern Kansas) tend to have higher instances of disease.

Drying and Storing Popcorn

Mature ears can be hung to dry or left to dry on the stalk.

There are several ways to dry popcorn. If weather conditions are hot and dry, then allow the ears to dry on the plant as you would with field corn. If you are concerned about too much rain, then let the ears fully mature and begin to dry. Then, harvest them and finish drying them by hanging them in a cool, dry place. You will know they are ready when the leaves, top of the cob, and kernels feel dry.

You can leave them on the cob, or for easier popping, you can pick or hull the ears. It’s a fun job to do, so invite the kids to help. Simply pick off the dry kernels, and place them in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid for storage, and place it in a cabinet close by to pop whenever you want!

Perfect Stovetop Popped Corn

Fresh popcorn is the ultimate wintertime treat.

I prefer to pop popcorn the old-fashioned way, in a tall pan with a little oil and a tight-fitting lid. My greatest key to success is shaking the pan every minute or so to make sure that the popcorn does not become too brown or burn.

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/3 cup popcorn
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon/s butter
  • sea salt to taste

Heat the oil in the pan on medium to medium-high until sizzling. Add the popcorn kernels, put down the lid, and shake the pan intermittently to keep the popcorn moving. Listen carefully once it starts to pop. Most of the corn will pop up within a minute or two, but there are always a few that are late to pop. I usually wait until I hear 30 seconds of silence before taking off the lid to add the tablespoon of butter down the side of the pan to melt. Wait another 30 seconds for the butter to melt, and then toss the popcorn in the pan with the lid on to distribute the melted butter. Finally, shake it into a bowl and add salt to taste.

You can also add parmesan cheese, garlic salt, rosemary, cheddar cheese dust, ranch seasoning, or other flavors to make your popped corn extra tasty.

How to Make a Gorgeous Fragrant or Edible Herb Wreath



Fresh or dried herbs or herbal flowers can be used to make wonderful medicinal, culinary, or fragrant herbal wreaths in almost any season.

An herbal wreath is a fragrant and decorative way to dry your culinary herbs. While wreaths are most commonly used throughout the holiday season, especially pine or fir wreaths for their fresh scents, herb wreaths can bring aroma and ambiance indoors throughout the year.

Harvesting Herbs for Drying

Drying bundles of herbs

Choose herbs to harvest that have not yet flowered. Cut the stems in the morning after the dew has dried, but before the heat of the day. Use clean, sharp scissors, or pruners. bundle them together in stems of five to ten, and hang them to dry. Once they are 3/4 of the way dry, they are ready to work with. At this point, they are not crisp. To dry bay leaves, place them between two paper towels and set a book on top of them. After a week, they should be ready to use. Here are four potential wreaths to make:

  • Herbal Tea Wreath–Pineapple Mint or Peppermint, Lemon Balm or Lemon Verbena, Chamomile Flowers, and Flowering Bergamot (Monarda didyma) are all perfect herbs for drying and teamaking. (Click here to learn more about growing and making tea.)
  • Lavender Wreath— Nothing smells better than a dried lavender wreath in the home.
  • Mediterranean Wreath–Bay stems, Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme make this a wonderful culinary wreath for any time.
  • Bay Wreath–Bay leaves can be dried to make a fragrant, culinary wreath to enjoy through winter.

Harvesting Fresh Herbs

Grow lots of fresh herbs for wreath making. Be sure to grow them organically if you intend to consume them.

Some herbs last longer than others in fresh herbal wreaths. Good herbs to choose include evergreens, such as bay stems, lavender, rosemary, sage, and even thyme stems. Flowering herbs, like chamomile, tansy, rosebuds, and yarrow, also work well. Avoid more tender herbs, like dill, parsley, or basil; they do not last and look poorly after just a couple of hours.

Making a Fresh Herb or Dried Herbal Wreath

Twig or grapevine wreath forms make the best bases for herb wreaths, fresh or dry.

Once you have collected a variety of herbs, you can dry them in a beautiful wreath. I like to contrast needles with broad leaves and vary the color, but a wreath made of entirely one type of foliage can also be pretty.


  • Grapevine wreath form
  • Rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, bay, sage, or other garden herbs
  • Everlasting flowers for color
  • Floral wire or twine
  • Scissors or snips

Make it!

A lavender wreath can perfume a home for a full year.
  1. Lay the grapevine wreath on a table, and set out the freshly cut herbs and florist wire.
  2. Build a bundle of herbs in your hands, like gathering a bouquet. I like to incorporate woody-stemmed herbs like rosemary as the base of bouquet because the stems can hold the shape of the softer stems layered on top. Be sure to add a touch of color with lavender flowers or fennel blossoms.
  3. Snip off any long stems and tie the first bundle with florist wire, leaving one end of the wire long. Wrap the long end of the wire around the wreath form to secure the first bundle in place.
  4. Gather the second bunch of foliage. Lay this bunch with the tops overlapping the first one, and secure it to the wreath form with the wire.
  5. Continue adding bundles of herbs to the wreath by overlapping the previous bunch and securing with wire until there are no more gaps to fill.
  6. Secure the final bunch by gently lifting the herbs from the first bunch and tucking the stems underneath it. Secure with wire by twisting it together.
  7. Take a last look at the wreath. You can tuck in a few more greens to even out the design and hang in your kitchen.
  8. As the herbs dry, use needle-nose pliers to twist the wire on the back of the wreath to tighten the hold on the herbs.
  9. Harvest herbs from the wreath for cooking for up to three months or until they lose their flavor and aroma.
When making a bay wreath, use a solid wreath base of straw and arrange the leaves in the same direction all around.