Corn

Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Sweet Corn

Ears of Corn

Sweet corn is an annual with yellow, white, and bi-colored ears. A long, frost-free growing season is necessary after planting. Here’s how to grow corn in your garden!

Sweet corn is wind-pollinated, so it should be planted in blocks, rather than in single rows. Early, mid, and late-season varieties extend the harvest. If you miss the optimal harvest time, corn will go downhill fast, as sugars convert to starch.

Planting

  • Corn plants are picky about their soil. Work in aged manure or compost the fall before planting and let over winter in the soil.
  • Starting corn seeds indoors is not recommended.
  • Plant seeds outdoors two weeks after the last spring frost date.
  • Make sure soil temperature is above 60 degrees F for successful germination. (Up to 65 for super sweet varieties.) In colder zones, the ground can be warmed by a black plastic cover if necessary. Plant seeds through holes.
  • Plant seeds 1 inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart. Rows 30 to 36 inches apart.
  • For sufficient pollination, plan your plot right. Don’t plant two long rows, rather, plant corn blocks of at least four rows.
  • You may choose to fertilize at planting time; corn is meant to grow rapidly. If you are confident that the soil is adequate, this can be skipped.
  • Water well at planting time.

Care

  • When your plants are 3 to 4 inches tall, thin them so they are 8 to 12 inches apart.
  • Be careful not to damage the roots when weeding.
  • Soil must be well drained and able to keep consistent moisture.
  • In dry conditions, be sure to keep corn well watered due to its shallow roots. Water at a rate of 5 gallons per sq yard. Mulch helps reduce evaporation.

Pests/Diseases

Corn plants are susceptible to several common garden pests:

Harvest/Storage

  • Harvest when tassels begin to turn brown and cobs start to swell. Kernels should be full and milky.
  • Pull ears downward and twist to take off stalk.
  • Sweet corn varieties lose their sweetness soon after harvesting.
  • Prepare for eating or preserving immediately after picking.
  • Sweet corn freezes well, especially if removed from ears before freezing. Learn how to properly freeze corn.
  • Corn kernels can also be harvested for other purposes, like corn-filled therapy packs.

Recommended Varieties

Wit & Wisdom

  • Baby corn is produced from regular corn plants that are harvested early, while the ears are immature. Regular sweet corn, sugar-enhanced sweet corn, and supersweet corn varieties can be used, along with a few varieties that are specific for baby corn.
  • If your corn shucks harder than usual, prepare for a cold winter.
  • Corn is one of the Three Sisters; its growing style pairs perfectly with beans and squash. Learn more about companion planting.
  • Corn is great for eating but also has so many other uses including medicinal. Learn more about corn for natural health.
  • Learn more fun, witty facts about corn.

Recipes

Cooking Notes

If too much hot pepper or spice has been added to a soup or stew, adding a can of sweet corn can help.

Popcorn is also a favorite snack if you have leftover kernels. Learn how to make homemade popcorn here.

Botanical Name: 

Zea mays

Plant Type: 

Sun Exposure: 

Soil Type: 

Soil pH: 

Hardiness Zone: