How to Plant and Raise Sweet Corn


Is there anything more delicious than hot sweet corn on the cob in summertime? Sweet corn needs fertile, moist soil and lots of sunshine and heat to produce kernels. Planting seeds after the danger of frost in two-week increments will allow for an extended crop of ripe corn cobs in mid- to late summer. As long as the soil is not too dry when the corn plant flowers and the silk on the cob ripens, the corn's quality should be good.

Step 1

Prepare the garden site soil by tilling or digging the topsoil to a depth of 6 to 10 inches when there is no danger or frost and the growing season begins. Break up any clumps of soil.

Step 2

Add organic matter to the freshly dug planting bed. Well-cured manure or compost can be scattered to a depth of 2 inches before being tilled or folded into the topsoil.

Step 3

Allow the soil to settle and gently compact for two to three days.

Step 4

Create a shallow furrow with the garden hoe about 1 inch deep. Place a corn seed every 10 to 14 inches in the row. Push the soil back atop the seeds in the furrow, ensuring it is no deeper than 1 inch. In sandy soils, the depth of the seed can be upwards of 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Lightly tamp the soil above the row with the backside of the hoe blade.

Step 5

Furrow additional rows of sweet corn 30 to 36 inches away from the previously planted corn row. Consider dividing your one long row of sweet corn into two or three shorter rows so that the pollination of the corn flowers is improved.

Step 6

Water the corn rows so that the soil is moist but never soggy. In conjunction with natural rainfall, the corn should receive about 1 inch of water each week during the growing season.

Step 7

Monitor the growth of the seedlings, which should germinate and emerge from the rows within four to eight days depending on the warmth of the soil. Remove weed seedlings by hand or a hoe so that they do not out-compete the young corn plants for light, nutrients and water.

Step 8

Continue a regime of weekly weeding around the corn and ensure 1 inch of rain or irrigation water each week through the heat of the growing season.

Step 9

Harvest corn cobs when the silky hair tufts on the tops of the cobs become crispy brown. While still on the plant, the tips of the husk can be gently pulled back to view the color, plumpness and overall size of the kernels to assist in determining readiness for harvest.

Step 10

Cut or chop off the ripe corn cob, husk attached, at the base of the cob where it attaches to the plant stem.

Tips and Warnings

  • Seed sweet corn is usually treated with a chemical to diminish chances of a fungal rot on newly sprouted seedlings. This chemical makes the seed corn pink. Do not allow children to handle the seed corn, and wash your hands after planting them. Various beetles may feast on the developing and ripe kernels of corn on the developing cob. Avoid pulling back the husk to frequently check on the corn's ripeness as this provides a route for insects to reach and eat the kernels.

Things You'll Need

  • Power tiller or shovel
  • Organic matter
  • Garden hoe


  • Sweet Corn Gardening Tips
  • "Growing Sweet Corn in the Backyard Garden"; Bob Cox
Keywords: growing sweet corn, warm season vegetables, maize

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for The Public Garden, Docent Educator, numerous non-profit newsletters and for's comprehensive plant database. He holds a Master's degree in Public Horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne's Burnley College.