How To Grow Corn In The Garden

How To Grow Corn In The Garden

Fresh corn on the cob is one of the top delights of the summer garden. Garden grown corn is infinitely more tender and sweet than store-bought. This is because the flavor begins to deteriorate as soon as the corn is picked. When you can pick it just moments before eating, it is truly blissful. Corn does take some space in the garden, but if you can fit it in, it is a must.

Types of Corn

There are three categories of corn – early season, mid-season, and late-season. As the designations suggest, these categories are the maturity dates for corn. Early-season varieties mature the earliest while late-season types take the entire growing season. In some climates, late-season varieties are not an option because their isn't enough time for them to mature before it gets too cold.

Some of our favorite corn varieties: 

Sugar Buns - Yellow, perfectly sweet kernels, 70 days

Golden X Bantam - An heirloom with wonderfully sweet yellow kernels, 75 days

Honey Select -- Very sweet and crunchy; ideal for corn on the cob, 80 days

Serendipity - Bi-color kernels, bursting with sweetness, 82 days

Silver Queen - White, perfectly tender and sweet, 92 days 

How To Succeed Growing Corn

  • Corn must be planted in blocks of at least 12. This is to ensure pollination, which is necessary for the ears to grow. Corn pollinates through cross-pollination between stalks. If the stalks are too far apart, or there aren't enough of them, they will not pollinate at all.
  • It's best not to start corn seeds indoors. They do not transplant well because their roots are shallow and rather fragile.
  • Start corn outdoors as early as you can to get a good start on the season. The soil must be at least 60F for the corn seeds to germinate. The best time to plant corn is usually about two weeks before the last spring frost. In cooler climates, it is beneficial to cover the ground with black plastic or a tarp to warm it up before and after planting corn seeds.

How To Grow Corn

Planting Corn

  1. Choose a location in full sun.
  2. Corn needs high-quality, well-draining soil.
  3. Only plant corn after all danger of frost has passed and the soil temperature is at least 60F.
  4. Sow seeds 1" deep and 3-4" apart, with 2-3 feet between rows. Do this in a 4x3 grid, or other grid size based on your space and how much you're planting.
  5. Water the seeds well – they need adequate moisture to germinate.
  6. In 10-15 days, the seeds will sprout.

Corn Plant Care

  1. If birds or other critters are bothering the corn seedlings, cover them with black plastic or a row cover until they are more established (no more than 2-3 weeks).
  2. Once the seedlings are 3-4 inches tall, thin them to 8-12 inches apart. If the corn plants are too close to each other, the ears will be smaller.
  3. Water consistently and thoroughly – they need about 1" of water per week. Because corn has such shallow roots, any amount of drought will stress out the plants.
  4. Mulching around the plants helps a lot in retaining moisture and keeping weeds away.
  5. Weed regularly but be careful not to disturb the roots while doing so.


  1. As the corn reaches maturity, the silk tassels on the ears will turn dark brown.
  2. Once the tassels are dark and the kernels are plump, the corn is ready for harvest. Pull back the tassels a little bit to check the kernels.
  3. Harvest corn soon after it matures; corn left on the stalk will become chewy, dense and unpalatable.
  4. Pick corn in the morning when it is cool for the best flavor. At this time, the sugars are the most concentrated.
  5. Harvest ears by grasping the stalk below the ear, then twist the ear off towards the ground until it breaks. Don't ever yank or pull at the stalk or it might come entirely up out of the ground.
  6. Cook or prepare corn immediately, or as soon as possible – no more than 2 days. The quality deteriorates quickly. Any less than ideal or older ears are good in stews or used in creamed corn.
Back to blog