Growing Corn: All You Need To Know About Planting, Caring, and Harvesting Corn

Garden 8

If you have a fairly large space in your garden or farm, corn is the first plant you should think of growing. Not only fresh corn tastes amazing, they’re very versatile.

Beyond the taste, corn is actually fairly simple to grow.

So if you love corn, like I do, then stick around because today I’m going to tell you all you will need to know to grow corn. With this information and a little water, you should have a successful corn growing season.

Corn Plant Info

  • Hardiness Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
  • Soil: Loam, PH between 6.0 to 7.0, deep fertile, well-drained, supplement with 1 to 2 inches of well-rotted or compost manure before planting
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Planting: Directly seeded outdoors at least two weeks after the last frost date or when the temperatures are above 60 degrees fahrenheit
  • Spacing: 4 to 6 inches between plants and 30 to 36 inches between rows
  • Depth: 1 to 2 inches seed depth
  • Best Companions: Peas, beans, cucumber, pumpkin, squash, sunflower, zucchini, melon
  • Worst Companions: Tomato
  • Watering: Water deeply once per week especially during planting and when the cobs begin to swell
  • Fertilizing: Apply fertilizer when the plants are about 8 inches tall and again during tasseling
  • Common Problems: Cercospora leaf spot, charcoal rot, anthracnose, common rust, common smut, downy mildew, gibberella stalk, northern leaf blight, bacterial leaf blight, bacterial leaf streak, bacterial stalk rot, goss’s bacterial blight, holcus spot, stewart’s wilt, maize dwarf mosaic, maize lethal necrosis, pythium root rot, aphids, slugs, corn earworm, cutworms, fall armyworm, flea beetles, spider mites, thrips, root knot nematode, mouse, birds, physiological diseases such as nitrogen deficiency
  • Harvest: When the silks at the top of the ear turn dry brown, when the cobs start to droop and the kernels release milky juice when cut

Corn Varieties (And The One You Should Plant)

Corn is a very interesting vegetable because it is used to feed humans, animals, and also used a decoration.

1. Sweet Corn

sweet cornsweet corn

Sweet corn is the variety we are probably the most familiar with. It is most commonly used as a food source. It has a very sweet taste that can be eaten on or off of the cob.

Sweet corn comes in a variety of colors from yellow, bi-color, or white. Familiar names for sub-categories of sweet corn are Silver Queen which is a white sweet corn and Peaches and Cream which is a bi-colored sweet corn.

Needless to say, this is a favorite around my house.

2. Popcorn


Yes, that yummy snack you buy in the microwavable bags at the grocery store actually starts in a field somewhere.

I have never been able to grow popcorn. I just haven’t made the growing space, but I do hope that sometime in the future I’ll be able to.

You can easily grow popcorn in your fields or yard. And it can certainly be turned into a delicious (and healthy) treat.

3. Flour Corn

flour cornflour corn

This type of corn is used to make cornmeal. Cornmeal can then be turned into delicious cornbread and other corn based treats.

So if you are a cornbread eater then you might find it worth your while to grow your own corn flour so you can then mill it into cornmeal.

Not only would it be healthier but most likely, more cost effective as well.

4. Dent Corn

dent corndent corn

Dent corn is also known as field corn. This type of corn is used for a variety of things.

First, this type of corn is used for livestock feed. I use this a lot around our farm as most any animal will eat this treat and love it. Just be careful as too much can certainly pack weight on them.

The second use for dent corn for corn syrup. This is used as a sweetener in most foods. And finally, dent corn is also used as a clean-burning ethanol fuel.

5. Flint Corn


Flint corn is a type of corn I am not very familiar with. It is a type of corn used as a human feed source as well as an animal feed. However, it is most prominently grown in Central and South America.

6. Pod Corn

pod cornpod corn

Pod corn is better known as Indian corn. It is used a lot around Thanksgiving as a decorative piece.

As you have probably seen, it is dark multi-colored corn that can be dried out and used to make beautiful wreaths and centerpieces for the holidays.

Who knew corn had so many different uses, right?

How To Grow Corn

Corn is actually a very easy vegetable to grow. Its main requirement is good soil.

So if you will start working on your soil the fall before you plant then you’ll be pleasantly surprised when planting in the spring.

You will want to work in aged manure or a compost into your dirt during the fall so it will have all winter to breakdown and form a much more nutrient rich soil.

When spring hits, it is important to remember not to start your seeds indoors. That is right, corn is that easy that you just plant the seeds and watch it grow.

It is important to remember not to plant until two weeks after the last spring frost. This is when the soil temperature should be above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This will allow germination to take place.

After you have developed a healthy soil and the temperatures are right, you’ll need to plant the seeds one inch deep and about 4-6 inches apart.

And that is all there is to growing corn. It is a very simple process that shouldn’t present very many challenges, if any really.

If you are concerned about planting the seeds the right distance apart you might want to invest in a seeder. You can purchase a good seeder here.

That is what we use to plant our corn and it works very well, and we have a high germination rate.

If you choose to go with the old fashion planting method, all you’ll need to do is cut a row with your tractor or a hoe (if you are planting in a smaller garden space) and drop the seeds in the ground and then cover them up gently with loose dirt.

So planting corn is truly that simple.

How To Take Care Of Corn

As easy as corn is to grow, it is almost as easy to care for.

So when your corn begins to reach about 3-4 inches in height you will need to thin them out a little.

Basically, go along and pull the ones that are too close together by creating 8-12 inches of space between each plant. Just be sure not to damage the roots when weeding or thinning out your corn.

Also, be sure that your corn is planted in well-drained soil. Using mulch around your corn will help distribute moisture more evenly.

And be sure to water your corn at a rate of 5 gallons of water per square yard during dry periods. That is all there is to caring for your corn.

Let’s review:

  • Give them good amounts of spacing between plants. About 8-12 inches.
  • Be sure the soil is draining well. This can be accomplished by putting mulch around your corn.
  • Water your corn during dry periods with about 5 gallons of water per square yard.

The Common Problems Of Raising Corn

Compared to most plants, corn does not have a lot of problems that go along with raising it. But there are still a few that are pretty easily fixed.

1. Corn Smut

corn smutcorn smut

Corn Smut is a fungal disease that develops in the soil. You will know you have corn smut if you begin to see gray or white spots on the ears of your corn.


You can solve this problem by heading it off to begin with. If you space your corn properly then you shouldn’t have this issue.

But you also should rotate your crops every year. This gives them fresh soil to grow in each year and the opportunity for any fungus, disease, or pest to die off before planting that particular crop in that spot again.

2. Rust

corn rustcorn rust

Rust sounds basically like what it is. It is when red or orange spots begin to appear on the leaves of the corn.


This is something that usually takes care of itself. As your plants grow and mature the rust should disappear.

3. Stewart’s Wilt

stewarts wiltstewarts wilt

Stewart’s Wilt is a virus that is brought on my flea beetles. That doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? Anything involving the word ‘flea’ usually lets you know up front it isn’t good.


This can be beaten by rotating your crops. That will help to control the flea beetles. Also, spread wood ash out in your garden to stop flea beetles as well.

4. Seed Rot Disease

seed rotseed rot

This is simply a fungus that is grown in your soil and infects your plants.


Don’t plant your seeds early. Make sure the ground is at or can be made to be 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

By doing so, this will help the seeds germinate faster and therefore, make them less susceptible to this fungus.

5. Root Rot

root rotroot rot

This sounds like what it is. It is rot that starts at the root and works its way all the way up the stalk of the plant.


Use a soaker hose when watering. It keeps dirt from being splashed up onto the plant which helps to keep rot at bay.

6. Southern Corn Leaf Blight

southern corn leaf blightsouthern corn leaf blight

This will cause bleached or discolored spots on both the leaves and ears of the corn.


When this impacts your plants, all you can do is to pull up and discard the infected plants. You will also want to rotate your crops each year to stop this disease in its tracks.

Best And Worst Companions For Corn

Corn is a very friendly plant and has many great companions as a result. What I mean by ‘friendly’ is that because of its height it actually gives other plants a place to grow up and gives them a great chance of production.

The Good Companion

  • Beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Melon
  • Parsley
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash

The Worst Companion

Corn actually only has one worst companion plant and that is tomatoes. The reason for this is that they attract the same worm which can damage and potentially kill both plants.

So there you have it. If you are looking to plant a good sized garden, you can base it all around your corn and make picking and growing much easier because of it.

How To Store Your Corn Harvest

Growing and caring for your corn is only part of the process. What do you do once it is done growing? How do you know when it is time to pick? And what do you do with the harvest?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

So you’ll know it is time to pick your ears of corn when the tassels on the corn turn brown.  By this time the cobs on the corn should begin to swell, too.

Then pull the ears downward and then twist them to remove them from the stalk. The next part is a little messy.

So you’ll need to remove the husks of the corn and then silk it as well. I recommend doing this outside so the mess is easier to clean up.

I usually pull up a chair on my back porch, get a big galvanized tub and have a silking party with family.

But I digress, you’ll see where the husks come to a point at the end of the corn. Find a loose leaf and pull straight down toward you. Do this to each leaf of the husk until it is completely removed.

You’ll then have little silky hairs all over the corn. I recommend getting an old toothbrush out and gently rubbing it over the corn to get all of the hairs off.

After you do that, you can cook the corn, can the corn, or freeze the corn.

More Tips For Growing Corn Successfully

I have a few extra tips that might help you have great success when growing corn.

First, if you live in a colder climate, you might need to plant corn when temperatures haven’t quite reached 60 degrees in order for it to have enough time to grow.

So all you have to do is cover the planting area with black plastic. Poke a hole in the plastic and plant the seeds through the hole. The seed should germinate and pop up through the hole. Remove the plastic once temperatures are steadily above 60 degrees.

Second, instead of planting corn in long rows, there are many claims that say planting corn in blocks actually works better. It gives them more protection when they are planted thicker in that pattern so it should stimulate growth and give you more production.

Finally, plant odorless marigolds or white geraniums around your corn to help deter Japanese Beetles. I did this in our garden this year, and I can say I don’t have nearly the amount of Japanese Beetles as I normally do.

Recipes For Your Corn

Corn is fairly easy to grow and doesn’t come with a lot of problems either. Having to husk, silk, and can it can be a little difficult at times.

But the fresh taste is completely worth it. So after you’ve put in all of the work to grow and harvest it, don’t you want delish recipes to put it to good use?

I thought you would so here they are:

1. Corn Relish

Corn relish always looks so tasty, and I love all of the fresh ingredients. We use different relishes in a lot of different recipes around our house so this one always appeals to me.

This recipe also shows you how to preserve your corn relish which is always an added bonus.

2. Mexican Corn

This corn looks so awesome I wish I had some right now. I usually prepare my Mexican corn off of the cob, but after seeing this, I think I’m going to change that approach.

3. Grilled Corn On The Cob

Grilled corn on the cob is one of the simplest ways to enjoy fresh corn. And it is super tasty too. So if you are looking for a simple recipe to enjoy your fresh corn, this one will probably do the trick.

4. Corn Pudding

This is the only recipe I ever use to make corn pudding. It is so good, and I absolutely love corn pudding.

In my mind, you don’t get much better than that!

5. Corn Fritters

I love corn fritters. They are so tasty and good. What I love about this recipe is that it takes corn fritters to a whole new level.

Not only are these yummy looking fritters, but they are also grilled. What more could you want?

Well guys, that is all you need to know about raising corn. As you can see, it is very simple to do. It could also end on a tasty note as well.

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