A Cook's Garden: Corn, Okra, Shallots

Grow a cook's garden for fresh tastes on your table!

April 23, 2018

A corn display at a local fair.

Annette McCarthy

Grow a cook’s garden for fresh tastes on your table! Below we highlight okra, corn, and shallots.

Note: This information complements the article “From Seed to Saucepan” by Robin Sweetser from The Old Farmer’s Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide.

Growing Corn

Nothing beats sweet corn fresh from the garden! A member of the grass family, corn is wind-pollinated, so plant it in blocks of at least four rows (not in one or two long, single rows) for the ears to develop properly.

Corn is also a heavy feeder. It requires soil that is enriched with lots of compost and high-nitrogen manure.

  • Sow seeds 1 inch deep, 9 to 12 inches apart, in rows 24 to 30 inches apart—but only after soil temperatures are above 60°F; otherwise, the seeds may not germinate.
  • Plant three different varieties (early, midseason, and late) to extend the season or stagger the planting of one variety.
  • Five or six stalks can be grown in a half–whiskey barrel container.
  • Plant a dozen or so bush beans around the base; they capture nitrogen in the air and bring it to the soil.
  • Mulch only after the soil warms up fully (65°F).
  • Harvest when the silk at the tip of the ear has dried and turned brown and the kernels are full and milky.

See the Corn Growing Guide for complete instructions on planting.

Corn Recipes

Corn Fritters
Corn on the Cob
Corn Ragout

Growing Okra

A key ingredient in Caribbean, Indian, South American, and West African cuisines, okra pairs well with eggplant, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. The mucilaginous cooked pods thicken stews and gumbo. Sauté them in oil to lessen the sliminess.

Okra likes full sun and hot, humid conditions, making it a perfect plant for southern gardeners.

  • Start indoors 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost. (Use peat pots; okra doesn’t like to have its roots disturbed.)
  • Transplant when the soil has warmed up to 70°F.
  • Space plants 12 to 18 inches apart.
  • Okra loves heat, so mulch topsoil with black plastic.
  • Some plants can grow to be over 6 feet tall and need support.

This plant is quite ornamental; Louis XIV grew it in his garden at Versailles for its pretty, hibiscus-like flowers. Container gardeners should try short varieties, such as ‘Cajun Delight’ or ‘Blondy’, in pots of 5 gallons or more.

See the Okra Growing Guide for more information on planting okra.

Okra Recipes

Aunt Clara’s Shrimp Gumbo
Canning Okra for Frying
Smokey Chipotle Gumbo Stew

Growing Shallots

Shallots are a mild-flavored member of the onion family whose seeds or sets can be planted in early spring. There are red, yellow, and white varieties. City gardeners can also grow shallots in pots.

  • Plant 3 to 5 inches apart in rows 18 to 24 inches apart.
  • Harvest at any time during the growing season and use like scallions or let them mature.
  • Each bulb will form a clump of about 10 cloves.
  • Cure in a dry, dark place. Bulbs can be stored for up to 6 months.
  • In warmer climes, try an autumn planting of sets as well.

See our Onion Growing Guide for information about to grow shallots.

Shallot Recipes

Herb Butter
Shallot, Mushroom, and Asparagus Quiche
Thai-Spiced Peanut Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches

See all of the Almanac’s free growing guides to vegetables, fruit, and herbs!

Also, learn more about growing a kitchen garden from author Robin Sweetser!



The 2010 Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide


Reader Comments

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Photo of corn

You couldn't find a more appetizing photo of 'fresh', sweet corn????

Love this site!

I am so happy that I found this site. It is so helpful. And the info is free. Thank you so very much! May God bless your efforts.

worms ruining corn

I've successfully grown corn the last 3 seasons, have yet to harvest any! The ears are eaten from the inside out by little worms. How do I stop this?? Please help!

Worms ruining corn

An old Mexican farmer gave me this tip: Soak the seeda.kernels for 24 hours in water with a few pressed garlic cloves. The pests hate the smell and won't go near it. Worked for me.


wish to know after i have planted corn, how long (months) will it takes to harvest them???

Growing Corn

The Editors's picture

Hi Jenny, thanks for writing! Depending on the variety and the growing temperatures (corn likes 60 to 95 degrees F), it will take 60 to 100 days (2 to 3 ½ months) for corn to grow from seed to harvest.