Growing Corn from Sowing to Harvest

Reader Contribution by Benedict Vanheems
article image


Growing Corn from Sowing to Harvest

Corn can be sown directly outside once the soil has warmed up, or sow in pots under the protection of a greenhouse, hoop house or cold frame to get a head start of three to four weeks over outdoor-sown corn.

Plant eight to ten seeds half an inch deep in four inch-wide pots. Or, sow into smaller pots or plug trays, planting two seeds in each pot or module then removing the less vigorous of the two seedlings once they emerge.

Your young plants should be at least six inches tall by the time you’re ready to plant them outside. Harden off the plants as the recommended planting time for your area approaches.

Planting Corn

Grow corn in full sun, in rich soil that has had plenty of well-rotted organic matter such as compost added. Corn is wind-pollinated, so plant in a block with each plant 18 inches apart (instead of a row) for the best chance of success. If the corn is poorly pollinated, it will still grow but many of the kernels will not develop on the cob.

Corn also works well grown alongside squash, which will sprawl among the corn and help to suppress weeds.

Weed by hand. Don’t hoe, because corn roots are shallow. Water in very dry weather, especially once the tassels appear and the cobs begin to form.

Harvesting Corn Cobs 

Harvest your corn when the tassels at the end of the ears turn dark brown. This normally takes around six weeks after the tassels first appear. To confirm that the cobs are ready, try the fingernail test. Peel back the top of the protective sheath and press a fingernail into a kernel. It should exude a creamy liquid. If it’s not ready the liquid will still be watery, and if there’s no liquid it’s past its best.

The sooner you eat it the sweeter it will be, so don’t harvest until you’re ready to use it. To harvest, twist the ear of corn and pull it away from the plant.

Get More Tips with These Great Gardening Resources

Our popular Vegetable Garden Planner can help you map out your garden design, space crops, know when to plant which crops in your exact location, and much more.

Need crop-specific growing information? Browse our Crops at a Glance Guide for advice on planting and caring for dozens of garden crops.

More Videos

Watch more videos on gardening techniques and other self-reliance, DIY topics on our Wiser Living Videos page.