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How to Grow Corn for Food Plots

Corn image by DSL from

Corn is an ideal food plot plant. Deer love the taste of it, and in the fall and winter, it provides a much-needed source of high-energy food. Plus, corn supplies its own seed, which makes it cost effective. However, you should only use corn as a food plot plant in areas where deer numbers are low or there is an abundance of summer vegetation to lure them elsewhere. If deer feed heavily on the green, immature corn in summer, the corn plants will become stunted and will not mature or fruit.

Prepare the soil in mid-May, when temperatures consistently remain between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a power tiller to till the soil to a depth of 1 foot. Then spread 25 pounds of aged compost per 1,000 square feet of food plot. Till the soil again, to a depth of 2 feet, working at a 90 degree angle to the direction you first tilled the soil in. Then spread 25 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of food plot. Till the soil again, to a depth of 2 feet, at a 90 degree angle to the direction you previously tilled the soil in.

Water the soil. Then allow it to return to its normal temperature before planting.

Plant the corn. Create furrows or narrow, 1.5-inch deep depressions in the soil that run in a straight line from one end of the food plot to the other. Each furrow should be 2.5 feet from its neighbor. Corn seed planted in the furrows should be 3 inches apart. When all the corn has been planted, cover the furrows with soil. Do not water the planting area again. This will cool the soil and prevent the corn seed from germinating.

Wait four to seven days for your corn seed to sprout.

Thin the corn seedlings to between 8 and 10 inches apart if the deer have not done it for you already. Seedlings should be culled by clipping them off at their base. The roots can be left in the ground.

Hand-weed the food plot until the corn plants are roughly 2 feet high. Then stop weeding so as not to disturb the corn plants’ delicate roots.

Water the corn. Corn plants need varying amounts of water at various points in their development. In general, after germination, your corn plants will need approximately 1/5 of an inch of water weekly. However, when the tassels, silk and ears are forming, your corn’s water needs jump to 2 inches of water weekly. And in July and August, the hottest months of the year, your corn plants will need about 2.5 inches of water weekly, distributed over fairly frequent watering. This water is meant to supplement rainfall. To keep track of the amount of water your plants are receiving from rain and watering weekly, place rain gauges in and around your food plot.

Fertilize your corn plants when they reach 16 to 18 inches in height. Spread 200 pounds of an ammonium nitrate nitrogen fertilizer per acre over the food plot (keep the fertilizer at least 3 inches from the stalk of the corn).


To avoid repeatedly bending up and down when planting your corn, consider using a length of plastic pipe to drop the seeds down into the furrows.

Corn is relatively drought tolerant. Except in extremely hot weather, it should be given infrequent deep watering as opposed to more frequent lighter watering.

If you don't have an adequately sized food plot, the deer will consume all of the corn before it has a chance to grow. Two plots totaling 5 acres is ideal for supporting a deer population.

Rotate your corn crop every four years to prevent disease and soil depletion.


Corn will not germinate if temperatures fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

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