The essential steps for successfully planting sweet corn in your home garden


Growing sweet corn in your own backyard can be a rewarding experience. With the right planting techniques, you can enjoy delicious, homegrown ears of corn all summer long. Here are some important facts and tips to ensure that your sweet corn planting is a success.

First, it is important to choose a well-drained and warm location for your sweet corn. Raised beds are a great option as they provide better drainage and warmer soil temperatures. Make sure the soil is deep and has been enriched with organic matter, such as compost, to ensure healthy plant growth.

When it comes to spacing, sweet corn plants should be planted about 1 to 1.5 feet apart within rows, and the rows themselves should be spaced about 2.5 to 3 feet apart. This will allow the plants enough space to grow and ensure proper air circulation, which is important for disease management.

Although sweet corn is a relatively easy crop to grow, it is susceptible to certain diseases and pests. To prevent diseases, it is recommended to wait at least two weeks after planting before applying any fertilizer. Additionally, using mulches, such as straw or plastic, can help to decrease weed competition and soil moisture evaporation.

Another important factor to consider when planting sweet corn is pollination. Sweet corn is wind-pollinated, so it is important to plant the corn in blocks rather than long, single rows. Planting in blocks will increase the chances of effective pollination and ensure a good harvest of well-filled ears.

Overall, planting sweet corn in the home garden requires the correct preparation, spacing, and management to ensure a successful and bountiful harvest. By following these tips and taking care of your plants, you can enjoy the taste of fresh, homegrown sweet corn all summer long.

How to Grow Corn in Your Backyard Garden

Growing corn in your backyard garden requires some planning and preparation. Here are the steps needed to successfully grow corn:

Choose the right spot: Corn needs a sunny location in your backyard with well-drained soil. Sandy and loamy soils work well for corn. Avoid heavy clay soils that can become waterlogged.

Prepare the soil: Before planting, amend the soil with organic matter to improve drainage and fertility. A soil test can help determine the specific nutrient needs of your soil.

Plant the seeds: Plant corn seeds directly in the ground once the soil temperature reaches about 55°F (13°C). Plant the seeds about 1 ½ inches (3.8 cm) deep and 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) apart in rows, allowing enough space between rows for easy access.

Watering: Corn needs regular watering throughout the growing season. Water deeply and evenly, making sure the soil is consistently moist. Avoid overwatering, as excessive moisture can lead to diseases and decrease yield.

Fertilization: Corn is a heavy feeder and requires regular fertilization. Apply a balanced vegetable fertilizer at planting and every three weeks throughout the growing season. Follow the package instructions for proper application rates.

Pest and disease control: Corn can be vulnerable to pests such as aphids and diseases such as corn smut. Remove any affected plants to prevent the spread of diseases. Consider planting disease-resistant varieties and using organic pest control methods.

Support and spacing: As corn grows tall, it may need support from stakes or a fence to prevent lodging. Proper spacing between plants allows for pollination and air circulation. If growing multiple rows, space them about 3 feet (1 meter) apart.

Harvesting: Corn is ready for harvest when the ears are filled out and the silks have turned brown. Twist the ears downward to pick them from the stalk. Fresh corn can be enjoyed immediately, or it can be blanched and frozen for later use.

Repeat plantings: Corn tends to mature all at once, so it’s a good idea to stagger your plantings by two to three weeks. This way, you can have a continuous supply throughout the season.

Additional tips: Mulching around the corn plants can help conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Consider using high-wicking mulches or planting a cover crop to retain moisture in the soil. Proper spacing and good airflow can also help prevent diseases.

By following these steps, you can successfully grow delicious and fresh corn in your own backyard garden!

How to Grow Corn in Containers or Totes

Growing corn in containers or totes is a great option for urban gardeners or those with limited gardening space. With the right preparation and care, you can successfully grow corn in these smaller spaces. Here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Choose the right container: When growing corn in containers or totes, it’s important to select a container that is deep enough to accommodate the corn’s root system. A container that is at least 12 inches deep and wide is suitable for a single plant.

2. Select the right corn variety: When choosing a corn variety for container gardening, look for varieties that are specifically bred for smaller spaces or have a compact growth habit. These varieties are typically shorter and better suited for growing in containers.

3. Prepare the container: Before planting, make sure the container has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Fill the container with a well-draining soil mix that is rich in organic matter. Corn requires a lot of nutrients, so consider adding some slow-release fertilizer to the soil mix.

4. Planting: Plant corn seeds about 1 inch deep and 4-6 inches apart in the container. If you are transplanting seedlings, make sure to plant them at the same depth as they were in their original containers. Water the container thoroughly after planting.

5. Water and fertilization: Corn plants need regular and consistent watering. Keep the soil moist, especially during hot and dry periods. Fertilize the plants every two to three weeks with a balanced fertilizer to ensure they receive enough nutrients.

6. Provide support: As the corn grows taller, it may need additional support to prevent it from falling over. You can use stakes or bamboo poles to support the plants and keep them upright.

7. Pest and disease control: Keep an eye out for common corn pests, such as corn borers and earworms. Use organic pest control methods or insecticides to manage pest populations. Regularly inspect the plants for any signs of disease, such as leaf spots or rots, and take necessary steps to prevent or treat them.

8. Harvest: Corn is ready to harvest when the ears are fully filled out and the kernels are milky. This usually occurs around 20-25 days after the tassels appear. To ensure maximum sweetness, harvest the corn and consume it immediately, as the sugar content starts to decrease soon after harvest.

By following these guidelines, you can successfully grow corn in containers or totes. Enjoy the satisfaction of harvesting your own fresh corn, even in limited gardening spaces.

How to Grow Corn in Raised Beds or SIPs

Growing corn in raised beds or sub-irrigated planters (SIPs) can be a great option for urban gardeners or those with poor soil conditions. This method allows for better soil drainage and access to water throughout the growing area. In addition, raised beds or SIPs provide a physical barrier, such as a fence, to keep out pests and animals.

When planting corn in raised beds or SIPs, it’s important to follow the correct steps to ensure proper germination and growth. Here are some tips for growing corn in raised beds or SIPs:

1. Soil Preparation: Before planting, prepare the soil by amending it with organic matter to improve its fertility and drainage. Corn requires a deep, well-drained soil for optimal growth.

2. Planting Depth and Spacing: Plant the corn seeds at a depth of 1-2 inches and space them 8-12 inches apart. This spacing will ensure that the plants have enough room to grow and receive adequate nutrients and sunlight.

3. Select Corn Varieties: Choose corn varieties that are recommended for your growing area. There are different types of corn, such as conventional or hybrid, and each has its own recommended planting density and productivity. Be sure to ask local agricultural experts or experienced gardeners for advice on which varieties are best for your specific location.

4. Mulch and Covers: Use mulch and covers to help maintain soil moisture and regulate soil temperature. Mulching with organic materials, such as straw or compost, can also help suppress weeds and improve soil fertility.

5. Watering: Corn requires regular watering, especially during dry periods. If you’re using a raised bed or SIP, you can take advantage of the self-watering feature by filling the reservoir with water. This will ensure that the plants have access to water throughout the growing season.

6. Fertilization: Provide the corn plants with necessary nutrients by applying a balanced fertilizer according to the package instructions. Corn is a heavy feeder and may require additional fertilization throughout the growing season.

7. Support for Tall Corn: As corn grows taller, it may need support to prevent bending or breaking. You can use stakes or trellises to help support the plants as they reach their maximum height.

8. Harvesting: Corn is ready for harvest when the ears are fully developed and the kernels have shrunken. To test if the corn is ripe, peel back the husk and press a kernel with your fingernail. If a milky substance comes out, the corn is ready to be harvested.

By following these guidelines, you can successfully grow corn in raised beds or SIPs and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.