Tips for Growing Sweet Corn

Nothing says summer like biting into a crisp ear of sweet corn. And there is no better way to ensure you have your own supply than by growing your own. For those lucky enough to have the room, sweet corn is relatively simple to grow, especially if you are in a warm climate. Plant several stands of corn to make it worth your while since every stalk only yields two or three ears.

Sowing and Planting

Sweet corn needs a long growing season and will not germinate in soil that is colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the American Horticultural Society's "Encyclopedia of Gardening." In warmer climates, the seed can be sown directly where it will grow. In cooler climates, start the seed in trays and plant the seedlings when conditions are favorable. Good varieties to try include Earlivee, Seneca Star and Sunrise, which are considered early corn; Peaches 'n Cream, Seneca Dawn, Silver Queen and Sundance, which ripen later in the season and supersweet varieties such as Honey 'n Pearl, How Sweet It Is, Illini Extra-Sweet and Illini Gold.

Weeding and Maintenance

The roots of the corn plant are very shallow, so take care when weeding around the stalks, recommends the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service. Cover the weeds between the plants with soil instead of pulling them. Side-dress the corn, which means to add extra fertilizer after the initial fertilization. The amount of extra nitrogen will vary based on how much corn is planted. The two main diseases of sweet corn are bacterial wilt, also called Stewart's disease and smut. It's best to grow a hybrid variety of sweet corn because of its high disease resistance. Insects also are a problem, specifically the flea beetle, which carries Stewart's disease, the corn borer and the corn earworm. It is recommended to spray the corn with insecticide to grow worm-free corn.

Harvesting and Storing

Harvest sweet corn once the silk on the ears begins to turn brown and the kernels emit milky juice, recommends "America's Garden Book" by Louise and James Bush-Brown. It is best to pick sweet corn right before it will be eaten because it begins to lose its sweetness within hours; supersweet varieties will stay sweet for two or three days, especially if the ears are kept cool. Sweet corn will freeze well if the kernels are removed from the ear first.

Keywords: growing sweet corn, sweet corn tips, corn growing tips

About this Author

Caroline Fritz has over 17 years of writing and editing experience, mainly for publications in Northwest Ohio. She is currently an editor for a national technical magazine focusing on the construction industry. She has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH.