How to Grow Sweet Corn

Instruction & Advice for Growing Sweet Corn
in Your Vegetable Garden

Nutrition Watering Instructions Harvesting
Climate Fertilizing Instructions Storage
Soil Challenges Tips

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. For more information, review the companion gardening guide.

Nutrition Information: (back to top)
Under optimal growing conditions, corn offers: Dietary Fiber, Chromium, Manganese, Magnesium, Potassium, Selenium, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Folate, Phosphorus

Climate & Growing Conditions: (back to top)
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: (back to top)
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: (back to top)
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: (back to top)
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: (back to top)
Fertilize throughout the growing stage with a fertilizer high in nitrogen and phosphate.

Gardening Challenges: (back to top)
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: (back to top)
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.” 


How to freeze Sweet Corn (back to top)
Remove leaves and threads from the ear of corn.  Blanch a few corn cobs at a time for 5 minutes, then chill in iced water for 5 minutes.  Drain, wrap each corn cob in plastic wrap. (or you can freeze kernels cut from the cobs). Pack wrapped cobs in freezer bags, remove air from bags, label and seal. Freeze corn for up to 6 months.

How to Dehydrate / Dry Corn (back to top)
Shuck ears and remove silk.  Steam blanch ears for 4 minutes, then drain.  Cut kernels from ears.  Dry kernels at 100 degrees (F) for 18 hours or until crisp.  To rehydrate, soak in hot water for about 30 minutes and drain.  Dried corn works well in casseroles, creamed corn, stews, chowders, soups.  You can even make your own cornmeal, by using a foodmill or grinder to grind the dried kernels.

Canning Corn (back to top)
NOTE: This is only a guideline. If not canned properly very dangerous (life-threatening) bacteria can grow undetected in your jars. Be sure to follow standard sanitation and canning procedures, as outlined in your canning cookbook or by your local county extension office. Also, follow your specific canner's manufacturer's instructions.

Processing time given is for at sea level. If you're above sea level, the cooking time will be longer. Again, check with your local county extension office for conversion rates for your area, to ensure that you're producing a safe canned food product. Your local county extension office may also be able to test your pressure cooker's gauge for accuracy.

Husk the corn, remove silk, and wash. Cut the corn from the cob. Pack loosely into hot jars, leaving 1" of space at the top of the jar (don't pack the corn in tightly). Add 1/2 tsp salt per pint (1 tsp per quart jar). Fill with boiling water, leaving 1" space at the top of the jar. Use a rubber spatula to remove air bubbles. Add sterilized caps. Process at 10 lbs pressure in a steam canner - pints for 55 minutes (quarts for 1 hr and 25 minutes).

NOTE: Be sure to follow your pressure cooker's manufacturer supplied instructions for safety.

Follow your canning cookbook's instructions for removing, cooling and storing the jars.

Gardening Advice Tips (back to top)

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Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.