Growing Sweet Corn
Golden Kennels For Hard-Working Gardeners
Subspecies: Zaya mays
Sweet corn is a warm season vegetable, easily grown in any garden patch that receives enough light, has good soil and provides enough room for the corn to grow. Continuous plantings can yield consistent harvests from July until first frost.
One reason growing sweet corn has become popular for gardens and used as a farm staple is that the taste of fresh corn is much better than corn that has been off the stalk for a number of hours or even days.
Homegrown corn is bound to be better than any ears you can pick up from the supermarket. If you want to give it a try, read on for a guide on how to grow sweet corn yourself.
Corn will not produce without fertile soil. Compost or manure should be added to the soil, the fall before spring planting. Planting cover crops in the fall that will be tilled under at the end of winter can provide even more nutrients to the soil. Purple vetch or clover is a good cover crop to use before corn.
First planting should be soon after last frost, as soon as soil has warmed to an adequate temperature. Sweet corn will not germinate if the soil is cooler than 60°F. Soil can be covered with black garden cloth or more compost to increase soil temperature. Plant sweet corn in patches of 4 stalks x 4 rows to insure pollination. If growing only a few plants, plant them in a circle formation.
Plant seeds at a depth of 1 inch. There should be 4 – 6 inches between seeds and 30 – 36 inches between rows. Thin seedlings to 8 to 12 inch spacings when they reach 3 to 4 inches tall.
If growing in a limited space you can grow corn in the same soil area as an early cool season vegetable, such as lettuce.
Corn plants have shallow roots, so cultivate the surface soil carefully. Soil can be hilled up around the base of plants as they grow, to smother small weeds and give the corn support. In mid summer you can mulch the corn to prevent weed growth.
To harvest sweet corn throughout the season, plant early, mid and late varieties in succession. Start with an early variety, plant a mid season variety a few weeks later, and another mid season variety in mid July. A suggested schedule would be to plant Early Sunglow first, a few weeks later add Tuxedo and Jubilee, and follow those with more Tuxedo and some Krispy King. Multiple varieties with varying days to maturity will ensure contiual harvest and good pollination.
Your success in growing sweet corn can be hobbled by insects and diseases, so it’s important to take preventative measures against common ailments.
It is important to remove and destroy cornstalks after harvest to prevent disease and limit insects that are attracted to corn.
Do not apply too much fresh manure to the soil too soon before planting or it will attract maggots. If possible work manure into the ground the fall before planting.
Sweet Corn is ready to harvest when a pierced kernel produces ‘milk,’ the watery white liquid from the kernel.
Corn freezes well and will keep for a long time. Kernels can be scraped off the corn, blanched and frozen in plastic bags or cream style corn can be prepared and packed in freezer safe containers.
Corn chowder also freezes well and will keep for several months.