Growing Corn

Category Vegetables
Many home gardeners would like to include corn in their vegetable garden. This is a page about growing corn.
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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.

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.
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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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Did you know, for every potential kernel of corn, there is a corn silk? A grain of pollen from the tassel must fall on each silk and travel down the silk tube to the corn ovule (where fertilization occurs) in order for there to be a fully developed ear of corn.

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That's why it is important to sow corn close together in blocks rather than in single rows, as this 'closeness' helps assure complete fertilization.

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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.

Growing Corn in a Raised Beds

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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.

Sweet On Corn

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March 31, 2006

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

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

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.
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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.

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Ellen

Answers

By rosa (Guest Post)
March 29, 20060 found this helpful

Do you rotate when you plant ? Add some compost to your garden and add some compost to the rows when you plant.You do have a compost pile ???? :-) compost is great for all plants ,even your potted and house plants. Call your local garden center and ask them what the problem is, they can help a lot . hope this helps

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By (Guest Post)
March 29, 20060 found this helpful

it sounds like maybe your seeds were bad. if they don't grow again this year, then you will know it is the soil. good luck.

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By Kim (Guest Post)
March 29, 20060 found this helpful

Make sure you rotate your crops. Just like farmers, here they rotate corn with soybeans. Corn takes out a lot of nutrients from the soil. I agree with Rosa, rotate and add nutrients. After 5 years, your plants have used up everything so keep it going with fertilizer or compost. Do you know any farmers? Most are more than willing to give up some wastes. Growing up, my family always put on a layer of manure every year.

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By Beth (Guest Post)
March 30, 20060 found this helpful

Corn is a heavy feeder. I rotate it with beans, allowing at least two years between corn plantings in the same spot.

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Lots of compost for everything. Ask your county extension agent and the local Master Gardeners chapter for clues.

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By Lottie (Guest Post)
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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By slbobrowski (Guest Post)
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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By John (Guest Post)
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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By John (Guest Post)
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 length 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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June 28, 2013

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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August 22, 2011

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

By Betty

Answers

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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May 6, 2011

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

By Dale

Answers

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.

www.i4at.org/.../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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January 22, 2016

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

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August 29, 2012

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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August 14, 2008

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

Answers

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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July 26, 2006

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

Answers

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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