Our third, fourth and fifth plantings of sweet corn and our irrigation sprinkler. Photo by Bridget Aleshire. 

Caring for Your Sweet Corn Crop

Sweet corn needs hoeing and weeding at least twice, once two weeks after sowing, and once at four weeks. Even better are four rounds: at 7, 14, 21 days (when the plants are 6-12” (15-30cm) tall) and finally one around 35 days when they are 18-20” (45-50cm) high. We use a walk-behind tiller, and follow up with hoeing and thinning. A wheel hoe can be a great tool for this job if you don’t have or want a rototiller.

Never allow soil in corn plantings to dry out. At tight spacing this becomes very important. You might need more than 1” (2.5cm) per week for maximum productivity, although corn is more drought tolerant than some crops. The most important times for watering are silking (when the silks first become visible outside the husks) and while the ears are filling out.

Flame-weeding can be used after planting before the corn emerges, or after the crop is 2” (5cm) tall, using a carefully directed flame. Consult ATTRA Flame Weeding for Vegetable Crops



People used to recommend removing the suckers that came from the base of the plant, thinking it led to higher yields. This idea has been tested, and in fact it can damage plants and possibly even reduce yields.





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