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Instruction & Advice for Growing Sweet Corn in Your Vegetable Garden

Corn is actually a member of the grass family. Gardening this vegetable requires a lot of space, as it can grow up to 15 feet tall. The average plant will grow 1 to 2 ears of corn per stalk. The flavor of fresh picked corn from your own garden simply can’t be beat.

Plan to plant three varieties, if your growing season (and space) allows: early, mid-season, and late season varieties. You may wish to do successive plantings every week, for several weeks, to provide an extended harvest of this favorite garden vegetable.

Gardening Advice Tip: Consider companion gardening sweet corn with pumpkins and beans to save space in your garden. Don't plant corn near your tomato patch.

Nutrition Information:

Under optimal growing conditions, corn offers: Dietary Fiber, Chromium, Manganese, Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Folate, Phosphorus

Climate & Growing Conditions:

Corn is happiest in warm/hot climates, and doesn’t tolerate frost. It needs full sun, and may need wind breaks (planting several rows together helps the plants withstand wind).

How to Prepare the Garden Soil:

Prepare the garden bed for your sweet corn crop by digging in poultry manure at least two weeks ahead of your planting date.

How to Plant Sweet Corn:

Your first planting of sweet corn should be two weeks after spring's last frost. The garden soil needs to be at a temperature of at least 60 degrees (F) for the corn seed to germinate.

Prepare shorter rows, spaced 2 feet apart. Dig the trenches 10” deep, then line with a complete fertilizer, then cover with 4” of soil. Space the kernels (seeds) 10” apart. Then fill the trench with soil. Keep the soil moist (but not soggy). Seedlings should appear within two weeks.

Poor pollination (ears with few kernels) is a common problem these days with growing corn. To help nature along, plant each variety in blocks of three rows, with 2’ of space between each row.

If you plant several varieties of corn, you will want to allow sufficient space between varieties to prevent cross-pollination (mixing of the varieties).

How to Water:

Keep the garden soil moist (but not soggy). Avoid watering the tassels.

Note: Do not water from top down, or you’ll risk interfering with the pollination cycle of the plant (thus no fruit produced).

How to Fertilize:

Fertilize throughout the growing stage with a fertilizer high in nitrogen and phosphate.

Gardening Challenges:

Sweet corn is not only a favorite of humans, but also many others in nature's realm. Common pests include: Corn earworm, corn borer, cutworm, aphids, birds and raccoons.

How to Harvest Corn:

Corn normally reaches maturity in 3 months, when the kernels are plump and milky, otherwise known as “the milk stage.” If the fluid from the kernels is clear, the plant is not ready yet for harvest. To test, simply crush a kernel with your fingernail and look at the resulting liquid.

An Old farmer’s tale goes… “don’t pick the sweet corn, until your pot is ready on the stove.”