How to Plant Corn From Seeds

Overview

Corn plants need a lot of space in a home vegetable garden to produce a good return of crops. Yet, the result is so delicious that many gardeners choose corn as their first and favorite vegetable. Corn tolerates a wide range of soil types, and modern hybrid seeds are particularly resilient. However, different corn varieties, such as "sugar enhanced" and "super sweet," need slightly different conditions and care. Buy seed packets from a seed specialist or garden store and check the packet for additional instructions.

Step 1

Till soil to 6 inches deep in a large enough area for your corn. Each stalk only produces two ears of corn, with stalks spaced about a foot apart. Work out how much corn you'll need and space your area accordingly. Choose several short rows rather than one very long row to aid pollination.

Step 2

Water the area with a hose and note how fast the water drains away. Corn grows best in soil with good drainage. Puddles or soggy patches a few hours after watering is a bad sign. Add manure and garden sand to heavy soils.

Step 3

Use a pH measuring device to test soil pH. Basic kits are found in many garden stores. The ideal pH for corn is between 6.0 and 6.5, according to Purdue University. If your soil pH is significantly lower, add some garden lime. Rotted compost and manure will lower pH, but if your soil is very alkaline at levels above 7.5, add sulfur according to package directions.

Step 4

Plant corn seeds when the ground warms up to at least 50 degrees F, but preferably when it reaches 60 to 90 degrees F. For many U.S. states this is sometime in May, but exact dates vary by region. Sow small clusters of three seeds an inch deep, with a foot between each cluster and a gap of around 30 inches between rows.

Step 5

Dig a small 6-inch hole near the corn to check if the soil is moist. Aim for around 1 inch of water per week, or enough to keep the soil damp. When seedlings emerge, thin out the clusters so that only one plant grows in each spot.

Step 6

Apply nitrogen-rich fertilizer when corn plants reach 12 to 18 inches tall, usually in very early June, according to Colorado State University. Hoe the soil delicately to remove weeds without damaging roots.

Step 7

Stick your thumbnail into a corn kernel on a mature ear of corn. If the juice that runs out is milky, then it's ripe and ready to harvest. If it's watery, leave it a little longer.

Things You'll Need

  • Spade
  • Hoe
  • Hose
  • pH kit
  • Lime (optional)
  • Sulfur (optional)
  • Manure
  • Nitrogen-rich fertilizer
  • Trowel

References

  • Colorado State University: Growing Sweet Corn in the Backyard
  • Purdue University: Growing Sweet Corn
Keywords: corn from seed, growing seed sweetcorn, sweetcorn from seed, corn growing tips

About this Author

Based near London, U.K., Peter Mitchell has been a journalist and copywriter for over eight years. Credits include stories for "The Guardian" and the BBC. Mitchell is an experienced player and coach for basketball and soccer teams, and has written articles on nutrition, health and fitness. He has a First Class Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Bristol University.