How to Grow Corn

How to Grow Corn

Why learn how to grow corn? Well, there is nothing quite like freshly harvested corn on the cob. The quality of corn starts to deteriorate as soon as it is picked, making it hard to find good corn at the supermarket. Growing corn is the best way to have the highest quality corn available for eating. You will be the star of every summer picnic if you have fresh corn on the cob to share!

Setting Corn Up For Success

Corn plants need space, sun, lots of water, and a place protected from the wind. The plants aren’t difficult to get started; however, without the proper setup, they will not thrive. Corn has shallow roots and can get dislodged quite easily by heavy winds and pesky animals. It also needs multiple plants to pollinate and has to be planted together. If there are not enough plants, they will not pollinate successfully. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 15 plants and to plan on a separate 3×5 space for them, at least to start.

Types of Sweet Corn

There are three main types of sweet corn available on the market and dozens of varieties of each type; look for ones made to succeed well in your climate and growing season length. There are many varieties designed to prosper in shorter seasons. Within the types, corn can also be white, yellow, bi-colour, and even red.

Standard Sweet Corn

This is the traditional corn. They are sweet without being ultra sugary and have the classic corn texture. The downsides to this type are that they diminish in quality quickly after ripening and do not store well. Popular varieties are Silver Queen and Early Sunglow.

Supersweet Sweet Corn

This type contains up to double the amount of sugar as standard sweet corn. They are designed to be harvested and stored over longer periods of time than sweet corn. The biggest downside to this type over standard sweet corn is that the yields are generally lower. They also are less tolerant of cold and need to be planted later in the season, by about a week or two, than most standard types. Popular varieties include Sugar Pearl and Sugar Buns.

Sugar-Enhanced Sweet Corn

This type has soft, tender kernels with a sweetness level between the standard and supersweet types. It can be stored longer than standard sweet corn but not as long as supersweet corn. Popular varieties include American Dream and Honey n’ Pearl.

How To Grow Corn

Step One – Prepare The Seeds & Space

A well-draining, fertile space that gets full sun is needed. The soil pH should be between 6.0-6.8. Amend the soil with good compost or manure before planting.

Soak the seeds in lukewarm water (approximately 20 C) for 8-10 hours before planting. Corn seeds are shrivelled, and the intake of water before planting increases successful germination rates. Plant the seeds directly from the soaking water, so they don’t dry out.

Step Two – Plant Seeds

Because of its pollination needs, corn does best planted in blocks instead of rows. The tassels of the male and female plants need to make contact, which means they need to be relatively close together. Space them 8-12 inches apart in three rows. Plant the seeds 2″ deep in groups of 3 seeds. The germination rate is, on average, 75%. Thin the seedlings as needed after they sprout.

Plant seeds after all danger of frost have passed. The soil should be at least 18 C.

Step Three – Care & Maintenance

Since corn is a heavy feeder, they require rich soil: Particularly important is nitrogen. When the plants are around 8″ tall, apply a nitrogen fertilizer. The fertilizer should be repeated when the corn starts producing tassels.

Water deeply at least once a week. Corn needs a good amount of water, and because of its shallow roots, it is vulnerable to drought. If you see any of the leaves curling, it is a sign the crop needs more water.

Step Four – Harvesting

Corn is ready when the ears are fat with a dark-green leaf colouring and the tassels are brown. A good test is to pull the husk down slightly to expose the kernels and test one by piercing it. If a milky substance squeezes out, it is ready.

Harvesting corn is simple to do by holding the corn stalk with one hand and pulling the ear down and away from the stalk with the other hand while slightly twisting until it breaks off. Use fresh corn immediately or as soon as possible. It will keep in the fridge for up to a few days, depending on the type. The longer it sits, the starchier and less palatable it will become.

Successive Planting

Growing corn by doing plantings a few weeks apart is a great way to prolong the harvest and have corn all season long instead of just for a couple of weeks. Try several plantings of the same type or different varieties. If you are planting different varieties, they need to be planted at least 250 feet apart to avoid cross-pollination. Alternately, they can be planted, so they tassel at least two weeks apart and, therefore, won’t intermingle with each other.

Potential Pests

Crows, raccoons, deer, mice, and squirrels are all potential pests for corn. In particular, crows like to pluck the seeds and new seedlings out of the ground. To deter them, cover the seeds with a row cloth cover after planting and keep it there until the seedlings are 6-7 inches tall and more than a crow is willing to pull up.

To keep raccoons and deer out, put an electric fence around your corn patch. There are a lot of alternate solutions out there if the fence isn’t working. Deer and raccoons are a determined bunch and love corn as much as we all do. An electric fence will usually do the trick, though.

Try Our Varieties of Corn

Interesting in growing corn? You can find our corn seeds here.

We’d Love to Hear from You.

Have any questions or tips on how to grow corn? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!

4 thoughts on “How to Grow Corn

  1. Can you transplant corn from starting them in a greenhouse. I was thinking about using peat pots and transplant directly into soil covered with black biomulch.

    1. Hi Boyd,

      Corn typically doesn’t transplant well but it can be done, and if you’re planting the peat pots directly into the soil and not disturbing the roots it should help a lot. You can start the corn indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost, and then transplant outdoors. The soil temperature should probably be at a minimum of 16 C before transplanting.

  2. I have started them indoors in newspaper pots that I made. Then I planted them with the pots into the ground and it worked fine. We have a short season, so I did this to give them a head start.

    1. Hi Peggy,

      That’s a great idea for transplanting corn. Thanks for sharing!

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