All About Growing Sweet Corn

Your all-inclusive guide to growing sweet corn. Read about the sweet corn varieties best suited to home gardens, when and how to plant sweet corn seed, disease and pest prevention, and harvesting and seed saving.

| June/July 2008

Sweet Corn

Everyone loves sweet corn — why not plant your own?

Illustration by Keith Ward

(For details on growing many other vegetables and fruits, visit our Crop at a Glance collection page.)

Isn’t it time to make mouthwatering sweet corn one of your hit crops this summer? Growing sweet corn requires warm soil (above 65 degrees Fahrenheit) so early summer is prime planting time. To stretch your harvest season, grow both early and midseason sweet corn varieties.

Types of Sweet Corn to Try

Open-pollinated sweet corn varieties offer traditional corn flavor, but rapidly convert sugar to starch, so they must be picked at just the right time. They often require less fertilizer than hybrids, and seeds can be saved from year to year.

Kernels of sugary-enhanced hybrid varieties remain sweet for a week or more, and feature tender texture combined with rich corn flavor.

Super-sweet hybrids produce exceptionally sweet, crisp kernels good for freezing. Super-sweet varieties must be planted at least 30 feet from other types of sweet corn to prevent cross pollination, which ruins their flavor.

Synergistic sweet corn varieties have a balance of sugary-enhanced and super-sweet kernels.

8/5/2017 2:52:11 PM

We started gardening and we were gone wrong. We could not figure out why we were not getting the beautiful vegetables we were hoping for. People suggest to spray chemicals for vegetables and fruits but is poison and it is not organic vegetables. My lab professor referred a guide it helps me to grow my gardening as what we like, you can get the guide from here >> ( ) <<. I have recommended this system to all of my friends and family. We got good organic natural vegetables and fruits in the next harvest, one of the beautiful products in the market....*

7/28/2013 11:08:50 AM

I've planted an heirloom blue corn for a few years. I got seeds from a local era-stylr urban homestead the city supports. I got a beautiful crop of strong 12 foot tall plants with perfect ears of quality bue corn. Since it was heirloom, I tried saving seeds the next year, but the plants were all wonky, with two and even 3 pairs of suckers gowing out the base, and strange development where the corn is supposed to generate. I suspect the strain as contaminated by pollen from an outside source. Can anyone tell me a way to isolate the pollination so I can save seeds?

5/12/2013 11:41:36 PM

This is my first year of serious gardening.  I have planted 5 rows of G90 sweet corn.  They are coming up but kind of spindly.  I followed proper planting directions and amended the soil before planted.  Did I do something wrong? Or am I missing something?  Most everything else is doing great.  We did have a cold snap the first weekend in May.  I am in Arkansas.  Thanks!

6/22/2012 10:16:52 PM

Hello people, I'm growing white corn, now can't tell when to harvest it. The ears looks big enough, silks are brown, I think I planted early April. Shoul I wait till 4 th of July ? Any advice.

carolyn van de boe
6/14/2012 2:00:56 PM

I am a container gardener. I have a 20 gallon tub full of corn. It was doing beautifully, the ears were forming and then boom the bottom leaves started turning brown and I was told to water more, that corn takes lots of water. Then I started getting litttle black spots on the stalks and the tassels on the baby ears starting turning dark and that was that, everything turned brown and the ears were mushy. Any help would be appreciated.

6/8/2012 9:32:21 PM

I was looking for a time frame. When one might see the beginning of ears and so forth? Our corn is over 4' and I don't see any tassels. Worried.

7/16/2011 5:50:16 PM

great primer on in mexico we are planting northern seed every 14 days and hope to have a continual harvest...but, there are all the pests in the world here in the tropics and we may find them in/on the corn...thanks for the forum

triple c farm
6/30/2011 4:05:47 PM

RB - I agree with Barbara. I think it simply time for picking! Diane - Definatley needs fertilizer. I used 34-0-0 straight nitrogen and my sweet corn is well over my head, I'm 5'11", and is full of ears. Only thing about the straight nitro is the weeds love it too! Good luck.

barbara pleasant_3
6/28/2011 6:24:12 AM

RB, could you have missed your harvest? It sounds like your corn is dying down, which it does at full maturity, when the sugars in the ears have converted to storable starch... Diane, your corn is so starved for nitrogen that I would start by drenching it with fish emulsion, then sidedress with fertilizer. You should see an overnight response to a liquid fertilizer. I use an organic slow release granular fertilizer, so I topdress my sweet corn pretty much continuously until the ears form. Good luck!

diane steinway
6/19/2011 7:05:15 AM

Our corn is about 3 foot tall and has started to turn a yellowish color. We have not fertilized since we planted. Could this be the problem and if it is we have been told to fertilize with a 12-12-12 fertilizer for corn. Please advise.

robert barr_1
7/15/2010 4:56:22 PM

Hi, my corn started to grow great. I started seeing ears on the stocks about 4 weeks ago. Now the stocks are looking like they are dying off. The ear husks are starting to turn brown. Does anyone know what happened? Can I save them? Any help would be appreciated. RB

7/4/2009 7:19:38 AM

Thanks for the "when to harvest" tip. I'm growing corn for the first time this year and that was the last thing I was wondering about. I'm also using an Elliot Coleman method, and I've underplanted soybeans when the corn was around a foot tall to fix nitrogen. I also used blood meal for an early nitrogen boost which seems to have worked. It's well past knee high and it's only the 4th of July!

barbara pleasant_3
2/3/2009 3:47:03 PM

The extra growths, or tillers, that rise from the base of a plant make it stronger by increasing its leaf area. That means more energy going to big ears of corn. So, unless the tillers are really in your way, let 'em stay. Thousands of years ago, corn was a bushy plant with lots of tillers.

athol forbes
1/14/2009 3:18:22 PM

can you please tell me if the extra growths from the bottom of the main growth needs to be cut away.i am talking about sweetcorn.

8/16/2008 3:01:44 PM

My corn is about 4 feet tall and the leafs have holes in them and some sort of brown dust on them in clumps. I've tried an insecticide thinking it was some sort of bug but it came back. Any ideas on what might be happening? Thanks

7/29/2008 5:52:37 PM

I would like to know when the ears of corn start to grow on a stock. My corn stocks are full grown and the ears are just beginning to develop. Is this normal? Would appreciate your answer.

6/23/2008 12:23:36 PM

Planting corn with beans and squash is actually how the Native Americans grew it, and they called it the "Three Sisters Garden" The beans will add nitrogen to the soil and the squash/melons will provide shade and work as a mulch to prevent weeds to the corn. I'm doing this in my garden this summer with great results. All three crops are thriving.

6/23/2008 12:22:57 PM

Planting corn with beans and squash is actually how the Native Americans grew it, and they called it the "Three Sisters Garden" The beans will add nitrogen to the soil and the squash/melons will provide shade and work as a mulch to prevent weeds to the corn. I'm doing this in my garden this summer with great results. All three crops are thriving.

suzi _1
6/23/2008 9:11:21 AM

Are there any plants I should avoid planting nearby? I read elesewhere here on Mother ,that yellow squash will snarf up nitrogen.Where can I find info on good companion planting combos?

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, hands-on workshops, and great food!