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Growing Corn

Many home gardeners would like to include corn in their vegetable garden. This is a guide about growing corn.
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April 16, 2006 Flag

Botanical Name:

Zea mays

Description:

Corn is a tall annual cereal grass that bears edible kernels on large ears. It has been widely cultivated throughout the world for centuries and is still a principal food crop in much of the world today.
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Planting Time:

Corn should be planted in the spring when soil reaches a temperature of at least 50ºF. Cultivars with different maturity rates can be planted in two week intervals until 10 weeks prior to the first frost.

Exposure:

full sun

Soil:

well-drained, nutrient-rich soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8

Planting:

Sow seeds directly into shallow furrows in the garden at a rate of 3 seeds per 8 to 12 inches and 1 to 2 inches deep. Space rows at least 24 inches apart. Plant several short rows rather than 1 or 2 long rows to make it easier for plants to pollinate. Avoid the cross pollination of different varieties by planting them 250 to 300 yards from each other. Very small corn crops may need to be pollinated by hand.

Watering:

Keep soil evenly moist (not wet).

Maintenance:

Standard size seedlings should be thinned to 15 inches apart (dwarf size 8 inches apart). Cut extra seedlings with a scissors instead of pulling them out and possible damaging nearby plants. Corn plants are voracious feeders. Apply an organic fertilizer like compost tea as soon as leaves emerge and repeat applications every 3 to 4 weeks until silks appear on the ears.

Harvesting & Storage:

Corn is ready to harvest when the silk turns brown and the kernels expel a milky-colored liquid (not clear). Pick corn in the afternoon and consume it immediately or keep it in the refrigerator for up to one week. To dry corn, leave it on the stalk until the husks are dry and turn brown.

Diseases and Pests:

Corn is susceptible to damage from several types of insects and fungal diseases. Watch for signs of damage and look for cultivars resistant to common problems like wilt, smut, blight, rust and mosaic.
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August 20, 2009 Flag

I planted corn seeds in this 8x8 foot raised bed. When they came up, I thinned to 64 plants. So there was about one plant per square foot. The soil used was a mix of potting soil and mulch that was about 6 feet deep.

I kept it watered and fertilized until it produced the corn. The variety of corn planted was Sugar Dots Hybrid, a sweet corn. The end result was 60 ears of very nice corn.

By Deanna from Spearsville, LA

Related Content(article continues below)
CommentWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
August 20, 20090 found this helpful

Sorry about the mistake I made on the depth of soil and mulch used in the raised bed. It should be 6 inches instead of 6 feet.

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July 26, 2006 Flag

Summer just wouldn't be the same without eating juicy, sweet, corn-on-the-cob. Selecting and growing a corn variety that gives you the sweet flavor you're looking for can be a bit confusing unless you're able to sort through some names and abbreviations. Here are the basics on understanding corn varieties and some tips on growing a sweet and successful crop.

Understanding Corn Lingo

Corn is either open-pollinated or hybridized and ranges in flavor from mildly sweet, to sweet, to very sweet. There are four main classifications of sweet corn: open-pollinated (OP), normal (standard) sugary (su), sugar enhanced (se) and super sweets (sh2). Many companies assign different names within the same categories, but they all use the designated abbreviations consistently.

Open Pollinated (OP)

Also referred to as normal or non-hybrid corns, these corn varieties are the heirloom varieties that were popular during the first half of the 20th century. Pampoon' is a well-known OP variety that was grown by the Iroquois as far back as 1779. Saving seeds from open pollinated corn will give you offspring similar to the parent plant providing that the corn is kept at least 100 feet away from other varieties during pollination. These varieties tend to be less sweet then the modern varieties. Their sugars turn to starch within hours after harvesting, so they need to be cooked immediately after harvesting to preserve their flavor. If you cook a lot of southwest dishes, open pollinated varieties are good choice for your garden. Try Golden Bantam.'

Normal (Standard) Sugary (Su or SU)

These corns are mildly sweet and are known to be more tolerant of cool weather. First popular in the 1970s and 80s, normal sugary varieties also convert their sugars into starch within a few hours of harvesting and should be cooked as soon as possible after picking. These corns are sometimes referred to as normal sugary hybrids, standard hybrids and regular sweet hybrids. Developed in the 1960s, Silver Queen' is a variety that remains popular today.

Sugar Enhanced (se or SE)

Sometimes referred to as sugary enhance hybrids, these corns are a step up in sweetness from the normal sugary varieties. Known for their tender kernels and sweet flavor, SE varieties are a good choice for the backyard gardener or someone growing corn for the first time. These hybrids offer gardeners a greater window for harvesting before losing their sweet flavor and don't need to be kept isolated from other varieties. Try Kandy Korn' or Bodacious' for freezing.

Super Sweets (sh2)

The dry seeds of super sweets are wrinkled and shrived (hence the sh) because they contain very little starch. This gives them the sweetest flavor of all corn varieties and allows them to maintain their flavor for up to 10 days after being harvested. Super Sweets varieties are best suited for the more experienced gardener. They need to be kept isolated (as least 50 feet) or risk turning tough and starchy from cross-pollination, and their seeds are prone to rotting in wet soil. Try Supersweet Jubilee.'

Corn Likes to Be Warm

If you live in a cooler climate, select a variety that ripens early. Plant corn in full sun and make sure the soil is nutrient rich and offers good drainage. The rate at which corn matures varies considerably by climate conditions, but "early" corn varieties generally mature in less than 75 days, "midseason" varieties in 75-80 days, and "late" season varieties take 85 days or longer.

Sow Seeds Directly

Unless your growing season is really short, it's best to sow corn seed directly into the soil. Seedlings are fragile and have shallow roots. Transplanting them increases the likelihood of pest and disease problems. Seeds should be planted about 1 inch deep and 4 inches apart in rows that are 2 to 3 feet apart. As soon as plants reach 6 inches in height they should be thinned to 6 inches apart.

Plant Blocks of Stalks

Corn is pollinated by wind. To avoid underdeveloped kernels or the absence of developing ears, plant stalks in blocks at least 3 to 4 rows wide. If blocks are not possible, plan on hand pollinating stalks.

Feed & Water Well

Corn is one of the heaviest feeders in the garden. Apply an organic fertilizer during planting, when plants reach a height of 1 foot and again when they reach 3 feet tall. Corn needs an inch of water per week-especially during the period from tasseling through harvest. As soon as the soil warms up, mulching around seedlings will conserve water and help control weeds.

Control Cutworms & Borers

Rotate corn crops and sprinkle diatomaceous earth over the seeds after planting. Use a cotton swab or medicine dropper to apply 1/4 teaspoon of mineral oil around the base of silks as they appear. An alternative would be to spray Bt (bacillus thuringiensis) on the silks as they turn brown to prevent worms from entering. Bt is an organic bacterium and is safe to use around children and pets. It will harm all caterpillars, however, (including butterfly) so use it only on select plants and as a last resort.

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March 31, 2006 Flag

Choose a sweet fast growing corn, 1 or 2 varieties. Make a large square area to plant the corn in. Do not plant in rows but in lines to fill up the square and put 3 seeds in each hole.

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Questions

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January 22, 2016 Flag

Which crop is used for the intercropping in a maize field?

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January 25, 20160 found this helpful

Beans and gourds can be grown with maize, beans provide nitrogen to the two others plants, beans climb up the maize and gourd provides shade at the foot of the two others which will then need less watering. The shadow provided by the gourd will also prevent the growing of unwanted weeds.

When the maize reaches 6 inches put 3 beans of climbing beans around each maize a week later saw one gourd.

In France we call these three plants the three sisters.

Hope this helps !

Catherine

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June 28, 2013 Flag

For the first time I have planted a few corn plants, is it necessary to detassel, or can you leave the tassels on and still get corn?

By jim

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June 29, 20130 found this helpful

The tassles are a necessary part of fertilization process. You should also plant corn in a block, ie say 4 rows by 4-6 in a row, to help fertilize.

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July 1, 20130 found this helpful

You need to leave those tassels (also known as 'silks') on the new ears for a number of reasons including as a way to know when the ears are ready to harvest.

Count 21 days from the first appearance of the tassels to know when your corn is ready:)

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July 8, 20130 found this helpful

The tassels are at the top of the plant. They send pollen down to the silk that grows from the ears of corn. The silk catches the pollen to pollinate the corn rows on each cob. Removing either the tassels or the silk will not allow the pollination process to form corn rows on the cobs. Leave both intact.

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April 26, 2006 Flag
Q: Last year I planted the same garden as I have for the last 5 years: tomatoes, peppers, corn, zucchini, green beans, exc. The problem is that the zucchini and the corn did nothing. The plants were there but the corn (I planted 6 or 8 rows) came up with only 4 corn plants which the bugs took care of. One zucchini plant came up and it got a couple of leaves and that's it, it stayed the same size and grew no zucchinis at all. Is there some nutrient or something that I should be adding to the soil besides compost? I had plenty of tomatoes and peppers.

Hardiness Zone: 5a

Pakjc from kentland, Indiana

A: Hi Pakjc,

Corn and Zucchini are both heavy nitrogen feeders, so if you are not rotating the location of your vegetables yearly, past crops may have depleted the nitrogen out of the soil. Even if you're using compost, it may not have contained enough nitrogen or it may simply not have had enough time to add nutrients to your soil. Beans fix nitrogen, which is exactly what corn and zucchini need a lot of. Try rotating your beans with your zucchini and corn by planting your corn and zucchini where your beans were last year and see what happens. This will also interrupt the cycle of certain soil-dwelling insects like wireworm or seed-corn maggots should they be present. You can also try planting a cover crop of clover (also nitrogen fixing) in the fall and tilling it in next spring. If things don't change for you this year, I would recommend getting your soil tested.

Ellen

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May 21, 20070 found this helpful

I have just planted some corn which are atleast 10 inches high, they have been ok untill today. Some of the leaves have gone brown and slightly whilted ?

can anyone help ?

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July 1, 20070 found this helpful

Some of my corn stalks are approx. 10-12 inches others are much shorter. They all seem to be yellowing and not growing like they did initially. What can I do to encourage the growth on all corn stalks and help them produce corn?

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November 8, 20070 found this helpful

I, like the guy before me, have had problems when growing corn. Six years ago I had plants about 8 feet tall and the corn was very sweet. Since then the plants have only got 3 ft tall the corn cob has only reached the lenght of 3"

The canes are extremely small. I have added the basic 10 10 10 10 I put all sorts of vegetable peels banana, ect. I took the plants over to a nursery and even that guy just scratched his head. HELP

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August 22, 2011 Flag

How do I get rid of spiders and ants on my corn stalks?

By Betty

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August 30, 20110 found this helpful

To get rid of ants, locate the hills (colonies) and use outdoor ant baits. If you kill the ants at the source they won't bother your corn. I don't see why you'd want to get rid of the spiders, because they kill the pest bugs that would otherwise destroy your corn.

To be safe, though, you can wear long sleeves and gloves when you pick the corn and tuck your pants into your socks, then shake out your clothes when you get inside. Spiders are hard to kill, and any pesticide strong enough to kill them is certainly something you don't want to be ingesting.

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August 30, 20110 found this helpful

You might also consider building and hanging bird boxes next year. Birds eat spiders and ants, so the more birds the better.

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0 found this helpful
May 6, 2011 Flag

I would like to know when to plant corn seeds and how deep in the dirt to plant them.

By Dale

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May 6, 20110 found this helpful

Corn/ sweet. Do not save seed. Make at least four plantings, beginning in March. Plant 2 to 3 weeks apart. Plant three seeds to a hill 12 inches apart and thin to one stalk per hill. Fertilize heavily. Do not pull suckers

Here is a great website for you hope this helps.

http://www.i4at  ib2/howgardn.htm

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May 7, 20110 found this helpful

My husband always uses an old saying 'plant corn when the oak leaves are as big as a squirrels ear'. It is always funny to hear him say it, but it seems to work.

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August 14, 2008 Flag

Question:

We fertilized the field and planted corn. Only weeds are growing. Whats wrong?

Hardiness Zone: 5a

Jan from Saratoga Springs, NY

Answer:

Jan,

Weed seeds are well adapted to surviving conditions that corn kernels are not, so it's no surprise you're able to grow a bumper crop, especially now that they have a shot of fertilizer. Here are a few possible reasons your corn seeds failed to germinate:

  1. Soil temperature. For successful germination a warm season crop like corn requires a soil temperature of 55° F at a 2-inch depth for three consecutive days. It germinates fastest in soil that's 68° to 86° F. Once the kernel is planted in an inch or two of soil, it should germinate in 5 to 12 days (depending on variety and soil temperature). When planting corn in the spring, keep in mind that wet, heavy soils have a tendency to stay colder longer than dry, loamy soils.

  2. Fertilizer burn. You didn't mention what type of fertilizer you applied, but using "fresh" hot animal manures (instead of non-composted or well-rotted manures) can actually create enough heat in the soil to burn your seed. The same can be said of using too much synthetic fertilizer.

  3. Moisture extremes. Too much or too little water can also affect germination. Seeds should be kept moist, but never wet. Dry seeds won't germinate and waterlogged seeds will quickly succumb to rot and mold.

  4. Poor seed viability. This can usually be avoided by purchasing high quality seed from the current year, and storing leftover seeds in a cool, dry place. To ensure the highest possible germination rates, corn seed should not be kept for more than 2-3 years.

  5. Animal pests. Birds, especially, can snatch up large-sized seeds like corn before they have a chance to sprout. Keep a watchful eye out, as birds tend to steal seeds without leaving much evidence.

  6. Seed Corn Maggots. These yellowish-white maggots hatch from eggs laid on the soil's surface. They can be most damaging during cool, wet weather because the larvae will hatch in temperatures as low as 40° F (4° C), which is much too low for planted kernels to germinate.

Ellen

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June 17, 20080 found this helpful

Is it this years seed corn? If it's old it won't sprout. You are watering, aren't you? Maybe you need to wait a bit longer...dig up a seed or two and see if it's sprouting.

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August 29, 2012 Flag

I would like to know how to grow corn at home. Also there are 3 pods on the plant. How long will it be before it gives a crop to harvest?

By radder

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July 26, 2006 Flag

We are growing 16 corn plants in an earthbox. I don't know what to expect. Right now, the plants are at different heights 4-5 feet, but gangly and a pale green. Flower stalks have formed, but I am wondering when and if they will form corn with the silk tassels, and if I am giving it too much water. Today, I plan to give it a sea weed drink. What do you think?

Hardiness Zone: 9a

Annie from Sacramento

Answer:

From what I know about Earthboxes, it's impossible to water them too much (or too little) as long as you keep the water reservoir full. Because Earthboxes come with potting mix and the appropriate amount of fertilizer, you shouldn't need to supply your corn with additional nutrients. I'm assuming that your Earthbox was commercially purchased and that you're using the soil and fertilizer granules that came with the kit. Adding a liquid fertilizer actually defeats the purpose of the Earthbox system. It's set up to work on a gradient-nutrients move from areas of a higher concentration to areas of lower concentration. Dry fertilizer is placed in a band around the plants on the top of the potting soil. When water is added, the moist potting soil slowly pulls nutrients down to the plant's roots so the plants have a steady and stable supply of nutrients. The moisture in the soil dilutes the fertilizer and prevents the plant's roots from getting burned. Adding liquid nutrients would destabilize this process and possibly damage the roots of your plants. Gangly, pale green stalks may signal your corn is not getting enough sun. If, on the other hand, you didn't fertilize using the fertilizer supplied with your Earthbox, your corn is probably very hungry and you can go ahead and give it some diluted liquid fertilizer. Ears should form as soon as the stalks are pollinated.

Ellen

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July 5, 20060 found this helpful

You are certainly doing okay with an earthbox but corn must have 2 things--lot's of SUN and tremendous amounts of FERTILIZER. I have been too sick to have a large garden so I planted 18 corn plants in a small raised bed. But I had to purchase the young plants and transplant them. They were light colored and sickly looking until I started giving them Fish Emulsian fertilizer each day. I will give them this food dose each day until they are healthier. The tassles will form, but if there is not enough wind or birds to spread the pollen, you can tkae your hand and shake the tassles on each other to pollinate.

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