How to Grow Good Sweet Corn


When grandma insisted on boiling a pot of water before harvesting corn, she wasn't being eccentric. Sweet garden corn loses its sweetness quickly once harvested. According to North Carolina State University's publication "Sustainable Practices for Vegetable Production in the South," sugar content declines by 8 percent in the first 24 hours after harvesting when stored at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and an alarming 52 percent if held at temperatures of 86 degrees. Producing tender sweet corn in the home garden relies on good cultural practices, careful selection of cultivars and consumption immediately after harvest.

Step 1

Select a location for corn that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day.

Step 2

Till the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Remove rocks, roots and other debris and rake smooth.

Step 3

Test the soil to determine the available nutrients and pH level. Follow the instructions included in the soil test kit to amend the soil to balance nutrients. Adjust the pH level to 6.0 to 6.5.

Step 4

Mark rows with the edge of the hoe, allowing 2 1/2 to 3 feet between rows.

Step 5

Apply 5-10-10 fertilizer following the recommended application rate on the container and work it in well with the existing soil.

Step 6

Soak corn seed in a large bowl that holds twice the volume of the dry seeds. Cover with lukewarm water and allow to sit overnight.

Step 7

Plant corn to a depth of 1/2 inch spaced 9 to 12 inches apart in rows, or in hills of three to five kernels. Space hills 18 to 24 inches apart in the row.

Step 8

Water to moisten the soil. Keep moist until seedlings appear in seven to 14 days, depending on the weather.

Step 9

Side-dress with high-nitrogen fertilizer when corn is 4 inches high following the recommended application rate. Sprinkle the fertilizer along the row 4 to 6 inches from the base of the stalks and work in well with a garden hoe. Repeat when corn is 12 to 18 inches high.

Step 10

Cultivate between rows regularly with a garden tiller--or hoe--to loosen soil and remove weeds. Use care not to disturb roots.

Step 11

Water thoroughly once a week to moisten the soil to the root level.

Step 12

Harvest when kernels are plump and silk has darkened.

Tips and Warnings

  • Plant corn in at least two rows, as it is pollinated by wind. Several short rows produce more corn than one long row. Separate cultivars of corn--or allow several weeks between the predicted days to maturity--to prevent cross-pollination.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden tiller
  • Garden hoe
  • Soil test kit
  • 5-10-10 fertilizer
  • High-nitrogen fertilizer
  • Sweet corn seed
  • Bowl


  • University of Illinois Extension: Corn
  • Purdue University Cooperative Extension: Growing Sweet Corn

Who Can Help

  • Colorado State University: Choosing Soil Amendment
Keywords: grow sweet corn, plant sweet corn, grow fresh corn

About this Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with 4 years experience in online writing and a lifetime of personal journals. She is published on various sites, including Associated Content. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.