Corn prefers warm, well-drained soil, so planting in raised beds may be one way to achieve those conditions in areas where the climate or soil is less than favorable. At the same time, a raised bed may drain too well or too quickly, and the soil may lose nutrients or become drier than is good for optimum growth, so it is important to water and fertilize raised beds regularly. Raised beds also warm faster than surrounding soil and offer the opportunity for early planting in short-season locations.
Lay out bed areas with stakes and string. Pound one stake into the ground at each corner and stretch string tightly between the stakes. (The National Gardening Association suggests making double-row beds that are 16 inches wide with 24 to 36 inches between rows.
Remove vegetation from the soil in the bed areas. Pull the weeds by hand or use a hand cultivator for "no-till style" gardening, barely scratching the surface to remove roots without unduly disturbing the ground.
Loosen the compacted soil to the depth of a garden fork's tines every 4 to 5 inches over each bed.
Remove vegetation from the pathways, then dig 3 to 4 inches of soil from the areas designated for paths. Throw that dirt on top of the staked beds.
Break up any soil clods and work the bed to a fine tilth with a rake or hoe, smoothing and shaping it into a low, flattened mound 6 to 8 inches higher than the surrounding paths.
Dig a 4- to 6-inch deep furrow down each side of the beds, spacing furrows about 10 inches apart and about 4 inches in from each edge.
Place the corn seeds 12 inches apart in the first furrow. Stagger the seeds in the second row so that the each seed falls midway between two seeds in the first furrow. (The zigzag pattern allows more room per plant in a smaller space.)
Cover the seeds with 1 to 2 inches of soil, lightly firmed. Water the furrows until soil is completely moist to about 1 inch under the seeds. Keep soil evenly moist until seeds germinate, but do not allow water to stand in the furrows.
Add more soil to the furrows around the seedlings as they grow to ensure that the roots are well-grounded.
Add 1 or 2 inches of well-rotted manure or rich compost as a top dressing when the seedlings are a foot or so high. Fertilize at the base of each plant with a cup of diluted manure tea weekly.
Keep soil evenly moist. The watering schedule will depend upon your climate and soil conditions, but a good rule of thumb is to water when soil is dry 2 inches below the surface.
Things You Will Need
- Wooden stakes (10 inches long)
- Yardstick or measuring tape
- Cultivator (optional)
- Garden fork
- Corn seeds
- Beds can be as long as desired, but two narrow beds with two rows of corn in each---for four rows total---is the minimum number considered necessary for good pollination. Blocks consisting of closely planted double rows are more productive than long single rows.
- No-till gardening, which means exactly what it says, is least disturbing to the soil and preserves earthworms and mycorhiza---necessary for healthy soil, and beneficial to plant roots.
- Corn is a grass and therefore a heavy nitrogen feeder. Planting corn in a place where nitrogen-fixing beans or peas have been grown is another way to ensure that it receives adequate nitrogen.