How to Grow Corn

Planting Corn

Corn is a warm season annual. Direct sow the seed after danger of last frost has passed and the soil temperature has warmed to at least 65°. Plant seed about 1″ deep 4-6″ apart. Later thin to 10-12″ apart when the plants have grown to about 3″. It is best to plant in several short rows (at least 4 rows) instead of one long row. Some people prefer to plant in hills instead of rows with several plants to a hill. Corn prefers rich, moist soil that drains well and has plenty of compost manure. Hill up soil around the plants to help reduce weeds and give the stalks support. Mulching will also help to reduce weeds and retain moisture. Feed with fertilizer when the plants are 10-12 inches tall.To get a continual harvest throughout the season, sow succession plantings about every two weeks. Allow 5-10 days for germination.

Harvesting Corn

Harvest when silks have turned dry and brown, the kernels have reached the top of the ear, and a milky fluid comes out when you puncture the kernels with your fingernail. Corn is generally ready about 2-3 weeks after the first silk appears. It is best to use the corn immediately after picking. The sugar quickly turns to starch and the corn will have less flavor if you don’t. It will keep fairly well for a few days at 32°F and high humidity.

Saving Corn Seeds

Corn must be isolated by ¼ mile. Although, you may be able to plant closer if crops are separated by woods or buildings that would obstruct pollination by the wind. Choose the best developed corncobs that you want to keep for seed. Cover them with a paper bag and tie them off at the top to keep out bugs. (do not use plastic – it will not allow for air circulation). Let the cob develop and dry out. Remove the cobs from the bag, peel back the husks, and allow to hang in a dry place. Once the cobs are fully dried, break off the seed and store in paper bag in a cool, dry place. Seed should be viable for 2-3 years if kept cool and dry.

Common Problems

  • Armyworm
    Smooth, pale green in color and up to 1 ½ ” long. Plant sunflowers in alternating strips with the corn. Spraying with neem extract can also help to control the caterpillars. Keep all nearby grasslands cut.


  • Japanese Beetle
    Blocky, blue-green beetles about ½” long, long legs with large claws. Plant with odorless marigold to protect plants.


  • Earworm
    Yellow, green, brown striped worms ¼”-2″ long, leaves will look chewed and frayed with damage done to the tips of the corn. Plow up garden in the fall and again in the spring. Turn the garden over to the chickens several days before planting. When new plants are developing, wrap each stem with a strip of heavy, brown paper.


Suggested Companions

  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Pumpkins
  • Squash
  • Melons
  • Gourds
  • Sunflowers
  • Cowpeas

Poor Companions

  • Tomatoes


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