Choose a Corn Variety
Before planting, it’s important to first choose a corn variety that will thrive in your climate and meet your preferences for taste and use. Some popular varieties include sweet corn (eaten as a vegetable) and field corn (used for animal feed or processed into products like cornstarch and corn syrup).
Field corn is further divided into varieties that are best for certain uses. For example, there is flour corn (good for grinding into flour) and flint corn (often used for making popcorn). But you don’t need to know all that if you’re after the veggie corn for your dinner table! Keep reading to learn how to plant corn.
When to Plant Sweet Corn?
Once you’ve chosen your corn variety, it’s time to determine the best planting time. Sweet corn is very sensitive to frosts, so it’s important to wait until the temperature is consistently above 60 degrees Fahrenheit before planting.
In most areas, this means planting 2–3 weeks after the last spring frost. Warming the ground with a black plastic cover is a good way to prolong the growing season in colder climates. Field corn, on the other hand, can tolerate frost better and can be planted earlier in the spring.
All types of corn will need 60 to 100 frost-free days in a growing season. So don’t wait too long to plant corn in the spring, as it won’t have enough time to mature before the first frost in autumn. If you’re worried about that, you can get an early-season cultivar, which is the quickest to mature.
Planting Corn in Rounds
How to plant corn for a long harvest? Many people plant their corn in rounds. This means planting small patches of corn every 2 weeks rather than all at once, so that the plants mature in succession. It can be helpful for home gardeners who don’t want too much corn all at once, or commercial growers who want to extend their harvest window for selling corn.
Where to Plant Corn? Light & Soil Requirements
Have you planned out your garden layout and know where you want to plant the corn? Great! But if you’re unsure what the best spot is, we have some tips for you.
- Corn needs full sun, so make sure to choose a location that gets at least 6–8 hours of direct sunlight every day. Otherwise, the plants will be weak and produce smaller ears of corn.
- Corn also prefers well-drained, fertile soil with a pH between 5.8 and 7.0. Most likely, you’ll need to add some phosphorus and potassium to the soil before planting. A soil test can help determine how much you’ll need.
- Don’t plant corn too close to other tall plants, as they will compete for sunlight and nutrients. Instead, interplant with smaller companion plants like basil, beans or potatoes to improve soil health and discourage pests.
- Pollination is also important for corn, as it is a wind-pollinated plant. Plant your corn in blocks rather than long rows, as this will increase the chances of pollination and therefore, a good corn harvest.
Make sure you have enough space for the corn to grow, as it can reach 5–12 feet tall and needs a lot of room for the roots to spread. For more information, read our article about how far apart to plant corn!
Fortunately, a small corn patch is enough space for a few plants, which will feed a regular family. Now, how to plant corn? Keep reading for the steps.
How to Plant Corn? 5 Steps
If you’re wondering how to plant corn in your home garden, just follow the steps below. With a little patience, you’ll have a bountiful harvest!
- Moisten the seeds, wrap them in moist paper towels, and put them in a plastic bag 24 hours before planting. This will help the kernels soften and increase the germination rate.
- Prepare the planting area by removing weeds and loosening the soil with a trowel or hand cultivator. Amend the soil as needed with compost or balanced fertilizer.
- Sow seeds about 2 inches deep and 2–4 inches apart in short rows that are 2–3 feet apart. If planting in rounds, leave room for later plantings. One block of corn should have 10 to 50 plants.
- Water the corn seeds thoroughly after planting, then keep the soil moist until germination. The seeds should germinate in 7–10 days.
- When the seedlings are 4 inches tall, thin them out so that they’re 12–24 inches apart (taller varieties need more space).
Now you have rows of healthy corn plants that will continue to grow and produce delicious, sweet corn for the summer harvest. But how to care for them after planting? The next section will cover that.
Tips for Growing Corn – Care After Planting
Weed regularly to keep the soil around the corn plants clear, but be careful not to damage their roots. Water consistently – about 2 inches of water per week is a good amount for their shallow roots. You may need to use more water if the soil is sandy, or if the weather is hot.
Check whether the soil stays moist after watering. Mulching around the plants can also help retain moisture and prevent weed growth. Remember that corn roots are shallow, so if the water evaporates from the ground quickly, your plants will be stressed and not grow as well.
Corn benefits from a nitrogen boost when it’s about 8 inches tall, and another one when it’s knee-high. When the plants are 12 inches tall, they may not stand straight and will need support from a mound of soil at the base.
Once the tassels are viable, shake the corn stalks every few mornings to help with the pollination process. Helping the wind pollinate the plants is worth it in the end – you’ll have more full cobs of kernels. Harvest corn when the husks are green and the kernels are plump. Enjoy your homegrown corn on the cob or use it in various recipes.
How to Plant Corn So That It’s Safe From Pests
Corn can attract pests like corn earworms, Japanese beetles, and cutworms. Monitor your plants closely for any damage and handpick the culprits if possible. Rotate your corn crop every year and plant in a different area to avoid pest build-up. Planting companion plants like marigolds can also help deter pests.
By following these steps on how to plant corn, along with proper care and pest management, you’ll be able to enjoy a successful harvest of sweet corn in no time. Happy planting!
And if you want to give your corn some extra boost, read our article about the best corn fertilizers!