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How to Grow Corn

Corn picked and eaten fresh is about as good as it gets in gardening. Some people even put the pot of water on to boil before picking their corn so they can eat it right away. The reward of fresh-grown corn awaits those who are willing to put in the extra work that growing a successful crop of corn takes. Learn how to grow corn with these ten tips. 

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10 Tips for How to Grow Corn

How to grow corn: 10 Tips for growing corn

1. Feed corn before and during the season

Corn requires rich fertile soil to meet its heavy nitrogen demands. Apply at least an inch of compost to your beds before planting. After planting, fertilize corn when the first leaves emerge and then weekly with fish emulsion. When the silks begin to appear, give plants a foliar feeding of a kelp fertilizer. 

2. Choose a sunny spot for planting corn

How to grow corn: 10 Tips for growing corn

Corn does best grown in full sun. Plant corn where it won’t shade other crops as it grows. 

3. Plant corn seeds directly in the garden

Corn does not transplant well; plant corn seeds directly in the garden. Sow seeds 1 inch deep and about 8 inches apart. For hot weather plantings (such as a monsoon planting in Arizona), plant seeds up to 2 inches deep. 

Keep soil moist after planting and cover with tulle or netting to protect young seedlings from birds. Remove the cover when seedlings are 4-6 inches tall.

Looking for non-GMO corn seeds? Click here

For square foot gardening, plant 3-4 corn per square foot.

To grow corn in containers, plant corn in containers that are at least 12 inches deep. Hand-pollination will be required.

Corn varieties to try: 

4. How to grow corn? Plant corn at the right time

How to grow corn: 10 Tips for growing corn

Wait to plant corn until soil temperatures reach 60℉ in the spring. Plant seeds every 2 weeks for a continual harvest. If you’re growing more than one type of corn, stagger the planting dates by at least 2 weeks so the corn doesn’t cross-pollinate. 

In the low desert of Arizona, plant corn from mid-February through March. Long-time farmers in Arizona say planting on March 1st is ideal. Plant again with the monsoons in late July through August.

5. Plant enough corn to ensure pollination

Corn is wind-pollinated and is best grown in blocks rather than rows in all but the largest home gardens. Planting at least a 4’x 4’ block of corn helps ensure better pollination. 

To avoid cross-pollination, plant different varieties of corn at least 10 days apart or space at least 25 feet apart in the garden.

6. How to grow corn? Give growing corn plenty of water

How to grow corn: 10 Tips for growing corn

Corn has relatively shallow roots and needs regular water throughout the growing season. Water is most critical when corn is tasselling. Water stress during pollination can result in spotty pollination.

7. Give corn support as it grows

How to grow corn_ 10 Tips for growing corn

Tall stalks and shallow roots mean corn can tip and fall in the wind easily. Hilling dirt up around the roots of the corn can help. Drive stakes at the ends of the beds and run twine between stakes to give corn support. 

In the low desert of Arizona, the monsoon planting of corn will definitely benefit from being staked during the higher winds of monsoon season.

8. Keep an eye out for common corn pests and diseases

How to grow corn_ 10 Tips for growing corn
Corn worm eating corn - common corn problems
How to grow corn_ 10 Tips for growing corn (3) (1) (1)

Corn is a favorite of many pests. Prevention is usually the best defense. Plant disease-resistant varieties, encourage beneficial insects, and rotate where you plant corn each year. If cutworms were a problem in past years, drench the soil with parasitic nematodes a couple of weeks before planting. 

Use floating row-cover to help prevent damage from birds, corn borers, or slugs. Check leaves for small holes regularly. If you find holes, spray with Bt each week as long as new holes appear. If worms have been an issue, place a few drops of mineral oil into the tip of each ear after the silk turns brown. 

9. Consider hand-pollinating corn to ensure plump full ears

Proper pollination results in plump full ears
Proper pollination results in plump full ears
Poor pollination on corn
Poor pollination results in fewer kernels
Corn silks ready for pollination
How to grow corn_ 10 Tips for growing corn
Corn tassels contain pollen

Patchy spots in harvested corn indicate poor pollination. Each silk is connected to a kernel of corn and must receive pollen. Collect pollen from several tassels, and sprinkle on the silks when they first emerge. Pay special attention to corn on the outside edges of the bed. Repeat this process a time or two for best results.

10. Harvest corn at the right time

How to grow corn: 10 Tips for growing corn

Check daily for mature ears once the silks begin to turn brown. Look for plump and full ears. When you puncture a kernel, the juice should be milky. Clear juice means corn is not quite ready. Corn quickly loses its sweet flavor after being harvested. Harvest early in the morning when temperatures are cool, and store in the fridge in husks until it’s time to eat. 

Do you have more questions about how to grow corn? Ask me in the comments. 

Do you have some tips about how to grow corn? I’d love to learn more. Please share in the comments. 

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Thursday 7th of December 2023

corns are heavey feeder.. I am wondering which fertilizer is best for the corn? Some of them said 21-0-0, other said acid fertilizer , etc..


Thursday 20th of July 2023

I sell local corn and corn from the south at Adam's Fairacre's Farm in the Hudson valley and grow corn in my back-yard so thanks for passing along the knowledge. Very helpful to myself and others as I believe produce is the future of our country and this planet after A.I. removes 75% of regular jobs.....


Friday 27th of January 2023

My corn is not developing and has dead leaves. What can I do

Angela Judd

Tuesday 31st of January 2023

What is your soil like? Is it getting too much water?


Friday 9th of September 2022

My corn stalks are developing only one ear each. Is that to be expected? I have been watering daily two staggered 7-minute soakings until ears showed up. Added a third 7-minute cycle. When we started hitting 90degrees and higher (103 expected for taody!) made it four 8-minute cycles. Using the moisture meter I use for houseplants, the soil registered wet on two cycles. I've stopped checking since increasing # of cycles. Only a few of the eats are getting any size to them and the biggest ears are on stalks I transplanted when I thinned. They had such nice roots I couldn't bear to discard them! In the primary bed the stalks are about eight inches apart with about ten inches between rows and each row has its own drip line. The ears are puny (about five inches long) even after 4-5 five weeks. I didn't think to write down just when they appeared, so that's an estimate. The two beds are near each other, but the second bed gets a little less water and isn't as dense as what I left in the first. A few of the ears on the transplants are about ten inches long. Could I be over-watering the first? Oh, and I haven't fertilized.

Angela Judd

Friday 9th of September 2022

Corn is tricky for sure. It does sound like you are overwatering them. It's best to water deeply, less often. They benefit from fertilizer as well.


Saturday 2nd of July 2022

Tassels on my corn plantsare spotty with black dirt-like spots......even the leaves has some black like dirt......I live in northeastern Tn and bugs are plentiful.....tried using organic sprays but they do not work very well.....especially Japanese beetles.....what can I do about the above problems.


Angela Judd

Sunday 3rd of July 2022

Handpicking is the best defense against Japanese beetles. I'm not sure about the spots on the corn. Wish I cold be more helpful.