How to grow corn: 10 Tips for growing 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 10 tips. 

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.

10 Tips for How to Grow Corn

How to grow corn: 10 Tips for growing corn

1. Feed corn before and during the season

Spring Garden Checklist - 5 Tips for Spring Planting - Tidy up your garden - get ready for spring planting #garden #springgarden #tidyup

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: 

Sweet Golden Bantam  Sweet, yellow, early corn. 

Strawberry Popcorn – 4 foot stalks with 2-4 ears of corn. Makes delicious popcorn. 

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 mid-April. 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 tasseling. 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 cut worms 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. 

How to grow corn: 10 Tips for growing corn
How to grow corn: 10 Tips for growing corn

5 Comments on How to Grow Corn: 10 Tips for Growing Corn

  1. I’ve been following your blog and YouTube channel for a few months now and I’m so grateful for all the information you are sharing. I am in south Phoenix.
    I am thinking of trying to grow corn this spring, I’ve never tried it before. Do you companion plant your corn? I’m interested in the corn, bean, squash combo. But wanted to know what you do here in the low desert. TIA

    • You can do the three sisters, but for corn to pollinate well it’s important to plant as much as you can in a single area. A companion planting that worked for me was to plant cowpeas in between the stalks once they were growing well. When the corn was finished the cowpeas took over the bed and grew well.

  2. When growing corn in 4×4 raised bed how deep should the soil be?
    Also is it too late in the season to plant?

    • Hi Tori, We are at the end of the planting window and it has been a hot spring. I would wait for the next planting window with the monsoon moisture in late July or August. As far as planting depth, aim for a depth of at least 12 inches.

  3. I grow corn in rows – at least 2-3 rows, the more the better. Rows are approx 2′ apart and plants 6″ apart. About 10-12 plants per row. I dig a furrow a few inches deep and run some fertiliser in the furrow and then mix it in the soil. Plant the seeds and cover over with soil and pat the soil down. Give a good watering and don’t water for 3-4 days.

    When the plants are about 15″ high I place some more fertiliser along the rows each side and then hill the soil up the plant base. New roots will grow from the newly covered plant stalk. That gives the plants more stability.

    When the tassels come out there is very fine pollen on them. Pollination usually happens over 5 days and generally around mid morning – 8am-12pm. You can run your closed fingers up the tassel and then rub over the silks to pollinate.

    Corn takes approx 21 days from pollination to be ready to harvest,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *