By: Kathee Mierzejewski
Corn (Zea mays) is one of the most popular vegetables you can grow in your garden. Furthermore, it can be blanched and frozen so you can enjoy fresh corn from your garden in the winter.
Most methods for corn planting are similar. The differences depend on type of soil, available space, and whether or not you need to amend the soil for growing corn.
If you want to grow your own corn, you need to know how to grow corn from seed. There aren’t many people who actually start corn plants first; it just isn’t feasible.
Corn enjoys growing in an area that allows for full sunshine. If you want to grow corn from seed, be sure you plant the seeds in well drained soil, which will increase your yield dramatically. Make sure your soil has a lot of organic matter, and fertilize before you plant the corn. Good soil preparation is very important.
Wait for the temperature of the soil to reach 60 F. (18 C.) or above. Make sure there have been plenty of frost-free days before putting the corn into the soil. Otherwise, your crop will be sparse.
If you’re thinking about how to grow corn from seed, there are only a few rules to follow. First, make sure you make your rows 24-30 inches (60-76 cm.) apart from each other. Plant the corn 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm.) deep in the soil about 9 to 12 inches (23-30 cm.) apart.
Mulch will help keep your corn weed-free and will retain moisture during hot, dry weather.
You might be wondering, “How long does it take for corn to grow?” There are many different varieties of corn and a couple of different methods for corn planting, so you can plant 60-day, 70-day or 90-day corn. When most people think about how to grow corn, they are thinking in terms of their own private stash of corn.
One of the different methods for corn planting is to have a continuous growing season. To do this, plant several types of corn that mature at different time intervals. Otherwise, plant the same kind of corn staggered by 10-14 days so you have a continuous crop.
Harvesting time is dependent on the particular type grown and how it will be used.
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Have you ever grown your own corn? Did it turn out not so great? Well, that can happen when corn is not grown in the right conditions that it needs to grow. Try out these 7 easy tips on how to grow corn.
When you grow corn, to get the best results you need to start off with the right soil conditions. The soil needs to be loose and not packed. You can loosen it up by using a tiller over it a few times.
Also, the type of soil you have will also impact on how you grow your corn. Red clay soil often gives you less corn and smaller ears with missing kernels.
Ways to fix your soil is to add in healthy top soil and nutrients that are needed for corn to grow. You can just dump them over your poor soil area and then use the tiller to mix them in. You can also grow corn in raised beds for even more control on the soil conditions.
For extra tips on getting your soil ready, check out How To Get Your Garden Ready and Best Natural Fertilizer For Your Garden.
When you plant corn, you do so by planting in small blocks of rows. There are other ways to plant, but this one really works the best and for a few different reasons.
After any threat of frost is gone, you can seed your corn. First, take a pointed hoe and make a few rows in the area you will be planting. Then drop your seeds into the rows and cover back over with soil.
When the sprouts are a few inches tall, you may need to thin a little depending on how thick they pop up. If you have 3-4 to a small area, pull a few up to allow for space. The ones you remove, you can replant in areas that may not have sprouted as well.
To grow corn, it needs lots of sunlight! That means if you are thinking of planting it in your garden that is at the edge of the tree line, it may not do so well.
Instead, try to find an area that gets full sun for most if not all day. By doing that, you will up your chances of growing the great corn crop that you are looking for.
Mother nature can be great, but it is not always dependable. When grown in large fields they depend on the wind and animals to pollinate the corn. But if they have low wind or activity in the corp at the time needed to pollinate, it can mean a not so great season for them.
However, when working in smaller spaces we can give it a hand! This is one of the other reasons planting in small block rows works really well. It will allow you to reach all of the corn so that you can hand pollinate. Don’t worry, it is not as hard as one might think.
First, let’s understand what is needed for pollination of corn. Around the same time you see little fringe rice looking things show up on the tassels you will also see the silk strings coming out of the ears of corn.
These two things need to come in contact with each other to pollinate. BUT it needs to be from other stalks of corn! So, the rice looking things at the top (aka anthers) need to come in contact with the silk strings of ANOTHER stalk of corn and not the same plant it came off of.
Ok, back to the hand pollinating part. To do this and to help mother nature out is easy. Simply walk through your corn area and touch the tops of the tassels with your hands to get the pollen on them. Then take that same hand and touch the silks of the ears of corn across from that stalk. Be sure to make your way through all of your stalks.
You will need to do this every day for around a week. You will know when to stop as the silks will start to turn brown.
One thing to note is that you can only do this on dry days. There will be no pollen on the anthers if it is wet out. So if you miss a day due to wet weather, that is ok.
This one can be tricky. I mean everyone loves fresh produce including pests. Depending on the area of your garden, there are a few things you can do. If it is on the smaller size, think about fencing it in or even putting netting around it.
If you have outside animals such as dogs, try to plant near them (as long as it is sunny) or even move the dogs near the garden. They will help to keep away wild animals. You may also want to check out How To Keep Rabbits Out and How To Keep Deer Out for even more tips.
As for beetles and other things that like to eat your corn, there are natural pesticides you can use. You can also lightly dust your crop with Diatomaceous Earth.
Another tip to grow corn is to make sure that it has water. In the middle of the summer, rain may not be as often as we like. So you may need to do a little watering on your own.
One great way to do this and not use up a lot of water is to collect water in rain barrels. Then on those days, you do not get rain, you can give your garden a nice drink!
Now for the last tip! When you should harvest your corn. You want to be sure that it is fully ripe so that it tastes good and you get the most from it. But you also want to pick as soon as it is ripe as it will lessen chances of something else getting to it before you do!
Corn is ready to be picked when it has brown silk and is dark green and fat. They will be more rounded and less pointed when they are ready to be harvested. You can also give a slight squeeze test and normally feel how thick it is.
After you have looked at them and are pretty sure they are ready to be picked, pull one ear off. Then remove the husk and pinch one kernel. If it is milky then you are good to go!
Choose your organic non-GMO corn seeds based on your preferred corn type: golden, yellow, white, or bi-color corn.
Before you begin, make sure the outdoor temperature is staying a constant 60 degrees or higher. It is not advised that you start your corn seeds indoors as transplanting can be tricky and cause damage to the plant. Instead, wait for warm temperatures and plant seeds directly into the ground.
Plant your corn seeds half an inch deep in soil that is nutrient-rich and drains well. Corn plants love heat, so be sure they have at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. Plant the seeds one foot apart and make sure your rows are about three feet apart. If you would like fresh corn all summer long, don’t plant all of your seeds at once. Instead, plant a row and then wait two weeks before planting another. This way, you can harvest all season long instead of all at once.
If you are a container gardener, don’t be afraid to try planting corn. Since the roots are shallow, the corn may fare well in a pot or container. You won’t want more than one stalk growing per container, however.
Corn has shallow roots and will absorb water easily. Water each week making sure you are providing at least 1-2 inches. Mulch around the base of the plant is always helpful for keeping moisture locked in. Corn will thrive if you feed it fertilizer, which can be done twice during the growing season. Try to fertilize once after you have planted and again in three weeks.
Corn tends to attract critters who love to nibble on it. Raccoons especially can be a problem. It is wise to put a fence around your garden if you will be growing corn, as it can help keep raccoons and other four-legged critters out. Birds also love to come and dine on corn, so a scarecrow or flashy object such as a hanging pie tin can help keep them away. A food-safe repellant can be used to deter any bugs that may be a problem. You can also pick them off by hand as you see them.
The silk of the ear of corn can tell you when it is time to harvest. It will be silky yellow/white with no sign of green. You can also peel back a small portion of the ear and feel the kernel which should be firm but puncture easily when touched by your nail. A white liquid may leak out as well.
To remove the ear of corn, just twist it until it breaks free. It is now ready to be enjoyed!
Give these easy tips for planting corn in your garden a try. In no time you too will be picking your own corn, perfect for grilling, using in salads, salsas, and just about anything else you can think of.
Many plants have different light and water requirements and should not be planted next to each other. There are also some plants that can thwart one another’s growth or cause them to be more attractive to pests and disease. Luckily, there are just a few to be aware of, such as:
The first thing to consider when growing corn is where are you going to plant it? Corn needs a lot of space because it is wind-pollinated, so you cannot grow just a little bit of corn. Pollinators are not what carries pollen from one corn plant to the other in order for the kernels of corn to develop on the cob. The pollen is carried on the wind.
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Corn needs to be planted in blocks and at least 4 rows by 4 rows is the very minimum. If you plant 4 x 4, you may still have to hand pollinate to get good production, but we’ll talk about that later.
Corn needs good, loose soil with lots of organic matter. It’s a heavy feeder. If you have hard clay soil, you’ll have to amend the soil with something to give it air such as peat, pine bark mulch, vermiculite, or perlite. While you’re amending it, go ahead and add more organic matter such as compost in the mix. Sand can also loosen up the soil, so if you have that available, you can try that.
Corn will also need a good steady water supply and full sun. Consider what you want to plant your corn next to in your garden. Some good companion plants in the garden for corn are squash which will grow on the ground between the rows and shade the roots of the corn, beans which deposit nitrogen in the soil from their roots and feed the corn.
The combination of beans, corn, and squash was the three sisters’ methods used by Native Americans to grow good crops. Some other good companions for corn include cucumbers, lettuce, melons, and peas.
Plant corn about one knuckle deep about 12 inches apart. Plant the rows 12-18 inches apart and as I said before, at least 4 rows in the block. The more the better. Corn is planted in Oklahoma about mid-April to early May. Check your growing zones.
Place soil over the corn seeds and pat it down about as hard as you would rub your eye. Water well and keep watered at least every other day until the seedlings are about 6 inches tall.
Corn can be grown in a pot, but as I said, it’s wind-pollinated so you’ll have to pollinate by hand. Many crops can be hand pollinated in different ways.
For corn, when you see the tops of the corn stalk putting off a powdery substance, you’ll take one of the sprigs on the very top and brush it on the tassels on the top of each ear of corn. It’s kind of like painting with a paint brush, but you won’t really be able to see the paint well. Do that once a day and you should get decent pollination.
If you harvest your corn and you don’t have full production (kernels of corn did not develop), it’s from lack of enough pollination, so adjust your methods the next time.
Once your corn plants are established, they’ll need to be watered deeply once a week just like most other plants in the garden.
The time corn will take to grow depends on the variety, so check your seed packets for a closer range, but corn, in general, takes 60-100 days to grow.
Corn needs to be fed a good fertilizer like diluted fish emulsion about once a month. Corn is one of the heaviest feeders in the garden. But it’s oh so worth it when you bite into one of those juicy, sweet ears of corn!
The most common pest I’ve seen on corn in my preschool garden in Oklahoma is worms. I have had cutworms come and eat the stem of the seedling and kill the whole plant, but that is rare.
Luckily it happens when they are young and there is usually time to replant and still get a harvest in.
The other kind of worm that I see more commonly is corn earworms. They burrow into the top of the ear of corn at the silk tassel and eat the corn inside while it’s growing. You don’t know they’re in there until harvest time.
Usually, they just eat a few kernels off the top and you can cut that top inch or two off the ear and salvage the ear, but sometimes they infest more heavily and the corn is ruined.
So how can we combat earworms in corn? I have been told you can place a drop of cooking oil on the silks when they first start to grow and that will prevent them. I have used beneficial nematodes to prevent many types of worms in the garden from growing prolifically.
You can also look for sprays that will help control worm populations such as safer brand or other natural remedies. I don’t recommend using anything like 7 dust on products you’re going to eat or live around. That’s my personal preference to live and grow safely. I take it extra seriously because of my children.
You’ll know it’s time to harvest the corn in your garden when the silk tassels on top of each ear have turned completely brown. They don’t usually ripen all at once, but you can harvest each one when theirs is brown and dried. I can’t wait until you taste your first ear of homegrown corn. I hope you tell me all about it. Yum!
It’s easy to learn how to grow popcorn. It grows just like sweet corn or dent corn. It’s all about the seeds you choose. Make sure to choose a variety that says popcorn on the package.
Preparing corn for eating is simple. It’s super delicious raw, so try that. If you want to cook it, just boil a large pot of water, add some salt, and drop the cleaned (remove leaves and silks from corn and rinse off) in the water. Boil for about one minute and take them out and cover them in sweet fresh butter.
Fresh corn is also great grilled. Just leave it as is with the leaves on, put it on a hot grill for about 5 minutes, and then peel back the leaves and silks and again, slather it in butter.
Once you have picked the corn, the sugars will start to turn to starch if you wait to long to eat it. So try to eat it within the day.
If you need to save some corn because you grew a ton (lucky dog) and don’t have time to eat it all, you can, can it, freeze it or dehydrate it. Freezing corn is what we do.
You can either freeze the whole ears with the leaves still on and then when you’re ready to eat them, toss them in a 350 oven and bake for about 30 minutes. Or you can cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them in hot boiling water for about 3 minutes, fish them out with a strainer, and shock them in a bowl of ice water for 1 minute.
Once they are cooled, you can drain them and freeze them in ziplock bags. We don’t can food because I’m not allowed to serve it to the daycare kids, so I don’t have a tutorial on that, but if you want to check this article out on canning corn.
I can’t wait for corn planting and especially eating season. It’s coming right up.