How to Grow Corn Complete Guide for Beginners

How to Grow Corn? Corn belongs to the grass family. It is a tender annual that can grow up to a height of anywhere between 4 and 12 feet. You will find 1-2 ears of corn growing on the sides of each stalk.

How to Grow Corn
How to Grow Corns Step By Step

These ears are grown into kernels depending upon the number of silks pollinated at the time of pollination. The corn of large variety generally produces one harvestable ear per stalk.

However, a dwarf variety of corn can produce 2-3 ears that can be harvested per stalk. For the beginners, we have a step-by-step guide here to help you learn how to grow corn and achieve a bumper harvest.

What Are The Stages For Corn Growth

#1- Prepare Soil for Planting

In the first stage, you must prepare the soil for sowing seeds. For corn plantation, select field with minimum 6 hours of direct sunlight. Also, soil must have high organic content and pH in between 5.5 – 7.0. Preparing soil for the ideal corn growth includes breaking and loosening the top 8-inches of the soil layer. Then, mixing upper 6-inches of loosened soil with fertilizer and compost. Once this best soil for corn is ready, you can then plant the corn seeds.

#2- Planting Corn Seeds

In the already prepared soil, sow the corn seeds at the depth of around 1-2 inch. Space the seeds to almost one foot apart in a row and keep the rows almost 2 feet apart. Water them regularly until you see the corn sprouting in within a week or two. Don’t let the soil dry out and always keep the top 6-inches of the soil moist.

#3- Protect Corn Sprouts

Once you see the corn sprouting, you must protect it from pests. The best way is to cover each seedling with a floating row cover or a plastic plant collar. Once the stalks have good leave growth, remove the plastic cover.

#4- Covering Soil with Mulch

Mulching is beneficial for the growth of corn plants. It retains moisture as well as prevent weed problems. Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch on the top layer of the soil.

#5- Watering Technique

We recommend you water the corn plants twice or thrice a week. Also, it is advisable to water it when the top 1-inch of them looks dry. These plants require about 2-inches of water each week during their growing season.

How to water corn? – Water these plants near the soil level and not from the overhead to avoid fungal problems.

#6- Fertilization Process

It is recommended to apply fertilizer in two batches. First, when you see your corn’s stalks start developing eight leaves, it is time for fertilization. Use ¼ pound of 46-0-0 fertilizer for every 50 square feet.

While applying the fertilizer, sprinkle it down the rows about 6-inches away from the plants and then add water so the fertilizer soaks into the soil properly.

The second batch of around 1/8 pounds of the same fertilizer must be applied when silks start emerging.

#7- Pests and Disease Monitoring

Rinsing of corn plants proves beneficial in preventing fungal growth and getting rid of aphids. This corn plant is rinsed off with a sharp spray of water during the early stages.

When you find stalks having fungal growth, remove them immediately before they start spreading.

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#8- Ensure Proper Pollination

Pollination is a must for the corn plants. It is recommended to shake the stalks gently when they produce silks. This improves the pollen dispersal and also enhances the chances of better ear formation.

#9- Harvest Corn Ears

After 17 to 24 days of the first silk formation, you will find that these silks have dried out which means that the plant is ready for harvest. The ripened ears would have green husk and firm and moist corn inside.

For harvesting, simply grab a ripe ear and pull it downwards while twisting and you will have the corn in your hands.

How to Plant Corn in Blocks

The gardeners prefer planting corn in blocks for which preparing the garden bed is essential. Choose a site that gets sufficient sunlight and has well-drained organic-rich soil.

To prepare the corn garden bed, first remove rocks, debris and weeds. Then, apply 2-4 inches of compost and properly decomposed manure on the top layer of soil. Moisten the soil properly.

Then, you can make 3 to 4-feet long rows and plant corn while keeping a space of around 3 feet between them.

How to make corn grow faster?

More than one cultivar can be planted in blocks. Though this stagger the growth but also reduce the pollination time by a minimum of two weeks.

As when two or more cultivars are planted close to each other results in cross-pollination. For planting the corn seeds, we recommend you do it with your hands as it is the best method. We will discuss more on how to do that below.

How to Plant Corn by Hand?

When to plant corn? – For planting corn, it is ideal to keep at least two weeks waiting period from the last frost date. It gives time to the soil to warms up to 60-degree Fahrenheit.

Regular watering and keeping the soil moist is essential for the seeds to germinate within the next two weeks.

How to plant corn? – Plant the corn seeds with 2 to 3-inches space between them in each row. While sowing corn seeds in mid-summer, they should be placed at the depth of 3-4 inches in the soil.

But if you are planning to plant in spring season, sow the seeds at the depth of just 1-inch. When you find the seedlings 4 to 6-inches in height, you should thin them to 1 to 2-feet apart.

These excess seedlings should be cut with scissors and not by pulling them out so that the roots are not disturbed.

How to Grow Sweet Corn

There is a slight difference between the field corn (cow corn) and sweet corn. It is easy to differentiate sweet corn from field corn as later has dent in the crown of each kernel.

Also, field corn contains high starch and low sugar as compared to sweet corn. It is generally not eaten when fresh. Therefore, gardeners leave them in the field to dry before harvesting.

Sweet corn, on the other hand, is the variety of corn that we prefer to eat fresh. It doesn’t grow as tall as field corn and is picked while it is immature.

The sweet corn crop has higher sugar content as compared to field corn. They are generally harvested early to prevent sugar from turning into starch.

Sweet corn falls in the category of the annual crops. It usually has white, yellow, or dual colored ears. As the sweet corn is wind-pollinated, we recommend you plant them in blocks instead of single rows of corn.

The corn planting time, site selection, watering, fertilizer, and soil requirements are similar to the field corn as we have discussed above. Both corn varieties have different harvest timings.

Sweet corn is typically harvested early when they are still immature. The recommended varieties for planting sweet corn are – Silver Queen, Sweet sunshine, Argent, and Iochief.

Growing Corn Problems and Solutions

Corn Pests

Corn plants are susceptible to attack from flea beetles, cutworms, corn earworms, cutworms, and corn borers. It is therefore essential to keep a close watch for them and destroy them at the earliest stage.

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Mineral oil is applied inside the tip of corn ears to suffocate and get rid of corn earworms. Corn borers, on the other hand, usually tunnel into the stalks and ears and start to feed upon them.

Handpicking is the best measure to keep a check on them. You must be careful to keep your corn growing area free of debris as that serves as the breeding ground for earworms and borers.

For the raccoons and other such rodents, we recommend using traps or fences to keep them away from your crop.

Corn Diseases

Two disease i.e. Smut, and Stewart’s wilt are common in the corn garden beds. Smut is fungal disease while Stewart’s wilt is caused by bacteria.

If your corn has been infected by smut, then the kernels will turn gray or black and swell. If this happens, then you must destroy the affected plants.

And avoid replanting in the same location for at least two years as the smut spores can survive for that long in the soil.

Stewart’s wilt is inflicted and spread by the flea beetles which will cause the corn leaves to turn yellow and the entire plant to become stunted.

To avoid these growing corn problems, you can either pick the disease-resistant varieties of corn or you can keep the flea beetles in check by placing wood ash or agricultural lime around the corn plants.

How Much Space is Good While Planting Corn 

If you plant corn too close together, then it will need more water and fertilizer and may still offer a smaller yield. Usually planting corn in blocks instead of single rows is suggested.

For this side, rows should be used that are 2-4 inches apart. Planting in blocks will ensure pollination and you can also choose to grow several plants by placing them on mounds or inverted hills.

If you wish to have a continuous harvest, then it is advised to plant the seeds in succession. This can be done either way – planting every two weeks or growing different varieties (early, mid-season, and late varieties) at the same time.

How to Grow Field Corn Tips

If you are looking to grow a crop commercially in the fields, then you should for corn as its prices have been fairly high in recent years and it does produce a high yield crop. Follow these tips for growing corn successfully in the field:

To get the best yields, learn about the plant variety that suits the climate and planting dates of your growing area and pick a modern hybrid that is sturdy and disease-resistant.

Plant diverse varieties of corn in the growing area with varying disease-resistance, rate of maturity, and pest resistance. It will not only help you to spread out the key stages of pollination but also reduce workload during harvesting.

Practice the rotation of crops every year as using the same corn variety year after year will help the pests in developing resistance to the built-in pest resistance of the hybrids. You can also choose an entirely different crop for rotation as well such as – spring barley, red clover, soybeans, wheat, etc.

You can try to reduce the space between the rows of corn as it will naturally inhibit the growth of weed by blocking the light needed by them.

To avoid diseases and pests, it is essential to follow good overall management practices while providing the right environment for the health and growth of your corn plants.

Can You Grow Corn from an Ear of Corn

If you are wondering can you grow corn from the cob i.e. from an ear of corn, then the answer is yes.

How to grow corn at home?

If you wish to produce your own seed corn for the next year’s crop, then you have to leave the seed corn in the field while harvesting the eating corn.

Wait for around one or two months and when you notice the seed corn’s ear husks are beginning to dry and turning brown, harvest them on the next day before the first frost hits.

Take out each ear from the plants and store them in a large basket in a sheltered area.

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Next, you will have to pull back the husks of all the ears one-by-one to expose the kernels and braid about four ears in a bunch using these husks. Keep doing it for all the seed corns and then hang these bunches in a room to air-dry them for about three months.

After three months, check for the off-color kernels in the bunch and get rid of them as that is an indication of bad or cross-pollinated corn.

As for the rest of the healthy kernels, take them out of the ears into a bowl and keep them safely in a rodent-proof container. Keep this container in a dry and cool area until the planting season and then you can sow them in the soil when the ground warms up.

How Long Does it Take for Corn to Grow

If you are growing corn for the first time and thinking about how fast does corn grow, then we can tell you that it usually takes anywhere between 60 to 100 days to be ready for harvesting depending on the variety and warm weather.

What do corn plants look like when they are ready? – When you find the corn ears turning dark green, silks turning brown, and kernels looking soft and plump, then it the right time to harvest them.

You must harvest corn in the morning and place their ears in cold water immediately if you want to preserve their sweetness.

What is the Best Time to Grow Corn

Corn comes under the category of tender and warm-season annual crop. Spring season is considered to be the best time to plant corn. Planting is usually done 2-3 weeks after last frost.

This plant prefers the soil temperature of around 60°F during planting and does well when the temperature stays between 60° to 95°F.

If you plant corn in the cold season, then the seeds won’t be able to germinate as they require about in 10 to 14 days at 75°F to do so.

How long does it take to grow corn?

For harvesting, the corn must have at least 60 to 100 frost-free days depending upon the variety and the amount of heat during its growing season.

Therefore, it is suggested to start growing corn indoor around 2-3 weeks before the last predicted frost. Then, you can transfer it to the ground 2-3 weeks from the last frost.

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By now you must have a good idea about growing corn in the backyard or the fields. However, we suggest you learn in detail about different corn varieties that are well-suited to the climate and soil of your area.

Some of our favorite varieties for warm climates that give a bountiful yield are – Golden Cross Bantam, Jubilee, Butter and Sugar, and Silver Queen – all of these are disease-resistant.

So go ahead and plant this easy-to-grow crop and enjoy a big harvest at the end of the corn growing season.

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