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Growing Corn

Botanical Name:

Zea mays


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.


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.


full sun


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


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.


Keep soil evenly moist (not wet).


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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