How To Grow Corn

How To Grow Corn

Corn is a rewarding crop to grow in your garden. With deep roots in history, it is one of the traditional plants grown in a Three Sisters Garden.

young corn plants in the garden

How To Grow Corn

In growing zones lower than zone 4 you should start corn indoors a few weeks before the last frost of the season. Corn requires a long growing period and prefers hot weather. A south facing garden is the optimal place to plant corn. In cooler zone consider planting in a sheltered area. Select early maturing varieties that are suited for growing in your area.

Warm soil is important when planting corn. To achieve this early in the season, consider covering the planting area with dark ground covering like plastic or landscape fabric. Once the ground is warm you can remove the coverings and plant. Cutting holes into the covering and planting is also an option, depending on the location of your garden.

Starting Corn Indoors

To start corn indoors you will need a tray and some 6 or 9 pack planting cells. Any kind of small containers with drainage holes will work as well. You can buy potting soil from your local garden center or most hardware stores.

Soak the corn in water over night to speed up germination.

Fill the plating trays or containers with potting soil. Plant the corn at a depth of 1 inch. Cover the corn will soil and lightly pat the surface to set the seed. Water gently until the soil is lightly saturated. A great way to water freshly planted containers is to set them in the tray and fill it with water. The planting containers will absorb the water up through the drainage holes. Once the surface of the soil is damp, drain the remaining water from the tray.

Cover and place the trays in a warm location. Heat is very important when germinating seeds. If you have a seed starting mat use it to aid in quicker germination. Once the corn starts to spout remove the lid from the tray. Set the tray of spouted corn in a warm sunny location. If you have grow lights set them under keeping a bit of space between the spouts and the lights.

corn ready to be hardened off

Do not allow the seedlings to dry out and be sure to keep them where they receive as much daylight as possible. The corn can be hardened off and moved outside once all chances of frost has passed and the ground has warmed up.

Hardening Off Indoor Started Corn

Any plants the are started indoors must be hardened off before being planted outdoors. This period takes around 2 weeks for the plants to acclimate to the outdoor weather conditions.

Once the days are warm, set the corn seedlings outside in a sunny, wind protected location. Start with having them outside a few hours a day. Over the two weeks extend the time they are left outside by an hour every day. By the end of the second week they can safely be transplanted into the garden.

Planting Corn

Select a spot in the garden that receives at least 8 hours of sunshine a day. Because of the height of corn plant, it towards the back of garden to prevent shading the other vegetables.

Corn is a wind pollinated plant. For better pollination consider growing the plants in tightly spaced rows that create a block. The plants produce flowering tassels that form at the top of the stalks. Pollen falls from the tassels into the silk that is coming from the ears that are formed lower down the stalk. For each silk fertilized a kernel is formed.

Prepping The Garden Soil

Work the ground well adding amendments like peat moss and compost. If the soil in your garden is compact, consider adding sand. It will loosen the soil which will allow for better root growth. The sand also aids in creating better drainage in the garden.

Using garden pegs and twine create the rows. Using the handle of the rake create a valley along the entire length of the twine. Plant the corn at the depth of an inch to an inch and a half. Space the corn 4  – 5 inches apart with rows spaced 18 inches apart.

Using the rake cover the seed well, tamping down the soil to remove air pockets. Gently water the rows. If any corn migrates to the surface push it back into the soil with your finger. Corn spouts between 7 – 10 days.

corn seedlings in the garden

Transplanting Corn

Once the corn seedlings have been hardened off and all chance of cold weather have passed the corn can be transplanted into the garden.

Create the rows using twine and garden stakes. Space the rows 18 inches apart. Using your hand dig a planting hole slightly larger than the container the corn is in. Gently remove the seedling from the container and place it into the planting hole. Pat the soil around the base of the plant to firmly secure it in the ground. Space the seedlings 6 – 7 inches apart.

Water the freshly planted seedlings well. If you want to add an extra layer of warmth and protection you can add tunnels covered with lightweight fabric. This will trap the heat and allow the corn to grow quicker.

You can apply mulch at this step.

corn growing in the garden

Caring For Corn 

Corn does not require much work during the season. Weed between the rows often, a hoe makes for easy weeding. Be careful around the base of the plants to not disrupt the roots. To protect the stalks from wind you can mound the soil up around the base of the plants.

Water often not allowing the patch to dry out.

corn in silk

How To Harvest Corn

Corn is ripe anywhere from 15 – 23 days after silking. The ears will be nice and round, the silk will be turning brown. To test the corn, peel back part of the husk revealing the kernels. Pierce a kernel, if the liquid is white or milky the corn is ready to be harvested. Pull the ear downwards and twist to remove it from the stalk.

corn almost ready to be harvested

Storing Corn

You should plan to prepare the corn for long term storage within the first few days of harvest. For refrigeration of freshly picked corn leave it in the husks. It can be stored in the fridge for a few weeks.

You have a few options when freezing corn for long term storage. You can remove the corn from the cob and immediately freeze it. The corn will require cooking before eating.

blanching corn

You can also blanch the corn before removing it from the cobs. The corn will be ready to use in salads and require little cooking.

To blanch corn bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add shucked cobs to the boiling water and allow to boil for 2 – 3 minutes depending on the size of the cobs. Immediately remove the cobs from the pot and immerse in icy cold water to stop the cooking process.

Once all cobs have been blanched remove the kernels from the cobs using a knife or a corn removal tool. Place the corn in food safe freezer bags and freeze.

For information about growing corn as part of A Three Sisters Garden be sure to check out this informative article for all of the details.

How To Grow Corn

Published by Redawna

Garden & Food Writer/Educator/Photographer. NFT artist. Management Professional. Community Builder. Entrepreneurial spirit.

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