Successful Corn Growing

Once you’ve had just picked sweet corn, there’s no turning back!

For a small investment in time, you can have homegrown corn for meals and freezing. 

What Do You Want to Know About corn?

Choose the Sweet Corn Variety for Your Needs

Sweet Corn comes in four types –  Normal Sugary, Sugary Enhanced, Supersweet and Synergistic.

Normal Sugary (SU) – often called “old fashioned”, they great for seed saving and are hardy in northern gardens. They are best suited for eating in a very short time after picking because the sugar turns to in a few days.

Sugary Enhanced (SE)- hybrids have a gene that makes the corn sweeter and more tender than SU corn.

Super Sweet (SH2)- hybrids that the sweetest and convert to starch the slowest.  SH2 varieties are also known as Shrunken . Good to eat fresh but not the best for frozen corn.

Synergistic (SYN) –  has 75% SE and 25% Sh2 kernels. Nice amount of sugar and often bred for early season, strong plants, disease resistance and reliability.

Super Sweets and Synergistic varieties need special care to make sure they don’t cross with other varieties.


Where should I plant my sweet corn?

  • Soil temperature must be at least 50°F for germination and growth, but 60-85°F is ideal.
  • in a well drained area.
  • in soil with some organic material.
  • with at least 8 to 10 hours of sun.
  • near a water source.
  • have the ground prepared the fall before,
    if possible.
  • presoaking seeds for eight hours helps with germination.

How Do I Prepare Raised Beds for Corn?

In many gardens, a raised bed for peas is a great idea because the bed is drier and warmer in the spring than the ground.

Ideally, the bed should have loose soil 12 inches deep. A minimum of 6 to 8 inches is required for corn.   

Avoid filling the bed with only ordinary garden or top soil, because the surface will crust over
and the bed will dry out faster. 

Add potting mix, garden compost and a bit of sand.
Mix 1 part organic matter (peat moss, compost, etc.) to 1 part sand or perlite to 2 parts soil.

Side dress two or three times with 34-0-0 fertilizer.  

Can I Grow Sweet Corn in Pots?

Yes. But… 

Don’t expect the quantity of ears. 

Use as large of containers as possible, a five gallon bucket or larger.

Several containers will be needed to grow enough for proper pollination. 

Use potting soil.

Potted vegetables require more water and more fertilizer than plants in the ground. 

How About Growing in the Ground?

It’s best to prepare the ground in the fall, so you can plant as early as possible in the spring.

Year One – test the soil to find out what nutrients need to be added.

Apply nutrients as recommended.

Year Two – In the spring,

Use 2 to 3 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer for every 100 square feet. Spread the fertilizer evenly over  and work it in 3 to 4 inches deep. Rake the soil smooth.

Side dress – two or three times with 34-0-0 fertilizer.  

How Do I Plant Sweet Corn?

  • Plant when the soil is warm, at least 50 degrees F.
  • Plant 1 inch deep, about 9 to 12 inches apart inches apart.
  • Plant four rows for better pollination   
  • A second crop can be planted in early July in the North.
  • Water the seeds in. Sweet corn needs twice as much  water to sprout as other corn.
  • Thin if you over plant.

Getting the most sweet corn

Provide 1- 1 1/2 inches of water per  week. 

Fertilize with a 10-10-10  product in the spring.

If you have a short growing season, choose corn with short maturity dates or transplant.

In the spring, try planting every 10 days to prolong the season. 

For the most ripe kernels per ear, keep ONE plant per hill. Multiple  plants too close will decrease the number of ripe kernels. 

When Do I Harvest My Corn?

Sweet corn should be ready for harvest about 20 days after the appearance of the first silk strands.

Mark a leaf on each ear 20 days later so you know when to pick. 

Sweet corn is ready to harvest when the silks become dry and brown and the kernels are plump and can be punctured with a thumbnail.

Best if used or processed immediately. 

If you take care of your plants, you can look forward to tons of corn.

A 100’ row of sweet corn will yield around 120 ears of corn.