A corn field.
image by Petr Kovar: sxc.hu
Sweet corn (Zea mays) is a warm-season vegetable that is a member of the grass family. There are three distinct types of sweet corn: normal sugary (SU), sugary enhancer (SE) and supersweet (Sh2). There are several hybrid varieties as well. Sweet corn comes in yellow, white and bi-colored varieties. Corn is a wind-pollinated crop. With sufficient light, fertility and plenty of space, fresh sweet corn can easily be grown in a home garden.
Decide which type of corn you would like to grow. Normal sugary corn is the standard sweet corn that is sweet with creamy-textured kernels. Sugary enhancer corn has a higher sugar content, while still being tender and creamy-textured. Supersweets have a higher sugar content than normal sugary corn, but also have a tough-skinned texture. The seeds can be saved for two years.
Choose a site for the sweet corn that has well-drained soil and full sun exposure. You will want ample space for at least one block of four rows, instead of one long row. Use a tiller to loosen the soil 12 to 15 inches deep in the garden bed. Mix in a 2-to-4 inch layer of compost or aged manure.
Ensure the soil is at least 55 degrees F for standard varieties of sweet corn, or 65 degrees F for supersweet varieties. The optimal temperature is up to 95 degrees F.
Plant the corn seeds approximately 1 to 2 inches deep into the soil, with 6 to 8 inches between each seed. Plant the seeds in a block formation of at least four rows, with 2 to 3 feet between rows. The block formation will promote cross-pollination.
Cultivate the corn shallowly with a hoe or by hand to keep weeds in control. Corn has many roots near the surface, so take care to avoid them. Add side dressings of manure if you notice signs of nutrient deficiency, such as purple-tinged or pale leaves. Sprinkle the corn with water in the mornings on a regular basis, so that the soil is moistened 6 inches deep. Corn requires at least 1 inch of water (through rain or irrigation) per week.
Harvest the corn when it is completely filled out. If you pierce a kernel that shows a milky, white fluid, it is ready for harvest. To harvest, snap the ears off by hand with a quick, firm, downward push. Twist and pull the corn off.