In this article on growing sweet corn in the garden I am going to cover everything from planting to picking if possible.
There is a technique to grow your sweet corn called the Three Sisters. Members of the Three Sisters are sweet corn, beans and squash. Each vegetable has it’s own role in this companion planting technique. Sweet corn served as a support for pole beans while the squash served as a ground cover to control weeds. Pole beans are a legume that produces fertilizer and served all the plants in the planting. Native Americans were the first to come up with this plan and it still works today.
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Sweet corn is a member of the grass family. Plant after all danger of frost has past. Any kind of herbicide that will kill grass will also kill corn.
just got a new post done that you may be interested in. How to freeze fresh corn in the husk.
How To Plant Sweet Corn In The Garden
Growing sweet corn in the garden requires plenty of sunlight. Sunlight of 8 to 10 hours per day should be adequate. Don’t grow sweet corn close to trees. Tree roots will rob the sweet corn of needed moisture. Therefore causing stunted plants.
You can check out my article on growing pole beans HERE.
When preparing the soil you should spread an all-purpose garden fertilizer on the soil and work it in. Something such as a 10-10-10 will work at this point. Just something to give the sweet corn a good start.
Grow sweet corn in larger or smaller blocks. Planting in one long row will decrease pollination. Sweet corn does not form full ears if not pollinated properly. There will be parts of the cob showing instead of kernels.
When planting seed in the soil, spread them out around 6 inches. Thin plants to 12 inches apart when well established. Space rows at least 12 inches apart also if hand weeding. When using mechanical weed removal space rows wide enough for the equipment. When planted too close together the ears will be smaller and the stalks will be weaker.
Growing Sweet Corn In The Garden – Caring For Plants
After the sweet corn seeds have sprouted and are well established you can side dress them with some plant food. I use a higher nitrogen fertilizer at this point.
Check with your local home and garden store or farm store. They can tell you what needs to be used in your area. Personally I use a 24-12-12 as a side dress.
Side dressing is just as it sounds. Spread a thin layer of fertilizer along each row. Water the fertilizer into the soil. Cover the fertilizer with some soil if not watering in.
Two inches of water per week either by rain or hand watering is good for all of your vegetables.
Nitrogen Comes In Two Forms
Ammonium nitrate will evaporate into the air if not covered with soil. Urea will lay on top of the ground and stay till rained or watered in. Check to see which form of nitrogen you have. 👍👌
Keep Your Sweet Corn Planting Clean
Grass and weeds compete with any crop for food and water. Sweet corn grown in your garden is no different. Keep the planting clean by shallow hoeing.
Sweet corn roots are close to the surface. Deep hoeing or cultivating will damage the roots. You can throw dirt up around the plants to cover grass or weeds in the row.
Garden Sweet Corn Pests
One of the most common pests is the corn ear worm. On a small planting of corn I use a few drops of mineral oil on the silk. As soon as the silk appears start adding a few drops after each rain. If there is no rain, apply every week or so.
Here is a video of common home garden pests. This video concerns sweet corn specifically.
Fall army worms and Japanese beetles are the other two that I have trouble with. An insecticide is about the only way to cope with them. Both of these pests can do a lot of damage in a hurry. Therefore I try to control them with an organic spray insecticide.
Safer Insect Killing Soap Concentrate 16 oz – pest organic pesticide bug control
Home Garden Sweet Corn Diseases
Corn Smut: This disease is easy to find in the garden. Large, brownish (swellings) containing a black sooty mass of spores develop on leaves, stems, ears or tassels.
Young immature galls are white or grayish white. A fungus causes this disease which occurs throughout the Southeast, especially when temperatures are high (79 to 100 °F) and moisture is abundant.
Pick off and destroy infected ears and galls while they are immature. Remove galls carefully, since spores can readily blow to nearby plants, causing more disease. No chemical controls are available.
Root And Stalk Rots
Root and stalk rots are among the most destructive corn diseases. They are caused by various species of fungi. Infected corn stalks fall over and losses result from unharvested ears and poor ear development on infected plants.
Some of these disease-causing organisms enter through the roots and move up into the stalk, while others enter the stalk directly at the nodes. Also insect damage can increase infection by wounding the plant and allowing fungi to enter.
Prevention and Treatment: Plant in well-drained areas, because stalk rots are most severe in poorly drained soil and where poor air movement slows drying. Do not exceed recommended plant densities as mentioned above. Plant spacing should be 12 inches by at least 12 inches.
Growing Sweet Corn In The Garden Conclusion
So this is how I grow sweet corn in the garden. Note that a small planting is easier grown than a large field. Pests are easier to manage in a small patch. Disease is easier to spot in a small patch than it is in a large field.
One thing that I have found when growing sweet corn. Raccoons love it and will sit back and wait patiently for it to get just right. Also at the same time I am sitting here waiting for it to get just right.
It is both sickening and maddening to walk out one morning to pick your corn and the raccoons did it the night before. It has happen to a lot of people around here. Most people have figured out what to do. Share, plant enough for them and yourself.
Some others have figured out more drastic measures that I won’t go into on here. 🤷♀️🤷♂️😊😂