How to Grow Corn

Corn is one of the most popular vegetables grown in home gardens. Nothing beats the taste of corn on the cob that was picked just minutes before eating. Fortunately, this summertime treat is easy to grow and harvest. Here’s what you need to know:

Before You Plant

  • Corn requires plenty of space to grow. You will want a minimum of 3 rows about 4-5 feet long with 3 feet between each row. This spacing allows for proper pollination of the plants.
  • Determine how long your growing season is and how much corn you wish to produce. Maturity time ranges from 65-95 days, and each stalk of corn produces 1-2 ears of corn.
  • There are many varieties of sweet corn available including yellow, white and bi-colored. Each type has its own special taste and look. The most popular remains the Silver Queen. Though it takes longer to grow, it is one of the sweetest varieties available.
  • Corn prefers full sun and rich soil for the best growth. It likes hot weather and can handle dry conditions as long as they are not continual. While corn may be able to handle light scattered frosts, plan your planting time so that harvesting can take place before the cold season begins.
  • Ideally, the soil pH should be 6.0 to 6.8. Your local cooperative extension office can test your soil for you, or you can buy pH test kits from hardware stores.

How to Plant Corn

What You Will Need:

  • Gardening mulch
  • Spade
  • Rake
  • Gardening trowel
  • Corn seeds
  • Fertilizer
  • Manure
  • Fish emulsion
  • Water

How to Plant:

  1. If you are planting your corn from a seed packet, read the instructions on the packet before planting. If any instructions on the packet contradict this article always follow the advice on the packet pertaining to your particular variety of corn.
  2. Generally, corn grows best in rich, well-worked soil. Mix the appropriate amount of gardening mulch (see the back of the bag for recommended amount) into the soil with the spade, removing any weeds as you do.
  3. Rake the soil, removing large rocks and leveling it out as you go.
  4. Plant seeds about 1/2 to 1 inch deep, 4-6 inches apart in rows, covering with loose soil. Place a small stake at the front of the row where you planted the seeds so you will know where they are. When plants reach 3-4 inches in height, thin to 12 inches between seedlings.
  5. Water the seeds well after planting and again in 2-4 days, unless there has been some rain. Water periodically during the growing season, especially if the weather conditions are dry. Ideally corn should receive about one inch of water every week. Water corn at the bottom of the stalk to prevent washing away the pollen on the top.
  6. Fertilize your corn plants every 2 to 3 weeks with a general purpose fertilizer.
  7. Corn consumes lots of phosphorus and nitrogen. If the leaves of the corn start to turn yellow, there is a lack of nitrogen which can be rectified with fish emulsion or manure that has been well cured.
  8. If you’d like fresh corn throughout the summer, plant new rows of corn every two weeks. However, keep in mind that corn planted in warmer weather will grow faster than those planted in the cool spring.

Harvesting Corn

  • Corn typically takes about 2-3 weeks to mature after the silks appear.
  • Corn is ready to be harvested when the husk turns dark green, kernels have filled out all the way to the top of the ear and the silks have dried and turned brown.
  • If you are unsure if an ear is ripe, pull the husks down a little to look at the top of the ear. If the kernels are not yet filled out, close the husks again and tie with a twist-tie to keep bugs out.
  • When removing ears, it’s easiest to pull downward with a twisting motion. Holding onto the stalk with your other hand will help prevent the stalk from breaking.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Corn stalks can be used for several things after they are finished producing corn. Among the top choices are fall decorations and food for livestock.
  • Corn loses taste quickly after being picked because the sugars instantly begin turning into starch.
  • Corn fungus is a common disease of corn consisting of a blackish/purplish glob. It’s edible, but you want to prevent it from spreading to other plants. Remove and dispose of the stalk.
  • Corn ear worms and silkworms are common pests to corn. Applying mineral oil to the silks after pollination will suffocate the ear worms. You can also apply Sevin dust to the silks or in the air to ward off insects.
  • If you have other visitors such as deer, raccoons or birds feasting on your corn, consider installing an electric fence or other distractions such as shiny pinwheels, scarecrows or shiny windsocks.

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