5 corn-growing guidelines for a successful crop

June 30, 2015

Corn is the perfect anchor crop for large gardens. Here are a few corn-growing guidelines to help ensure a successful crop.

5 corn-growing guidelines for a successful crop

Corn pollination

Because it is pollinated by wind (with a little help from insects), sweet corn produces the best and biggest ears when it's planted in blocks of three or more adjoining rows.

  • In small plantings, you can improve pollination by gathering pollen from the tassels at the tops of the plants and sprinkling it onto the silks as they emerge from the tips of the ears.

1. Fertilize twice

Corn is a heavy feeder, and the best way to keep it from going hungry is to fertilize it twice.

  • Work balanced fertilizer into the soil before you plant seeds in mid- to late spring, then feed it again just as the tassels emerge from the tops of the plants.
  • Use a fast-release fertilizer, such as inexpensive 10-10-10, for the second feeding, or use ammonium nitrate, a potent source of fast-acting nitrogen.

2. Practice artful hoeing

Use a sharp hoe to get rid of weeds that threaten to crowd out your corn.

  • When it's knee high, use your hoe to hill up soil around the bases of the plants, which helps keep them from falling over when blasted by strong gusts of wind from summer thunderstorms.

3. Defeat corn earworms

This common corn pest wiggles into the tips of ears and helps itself to tender young kernels.

  • A few days after the silk emerges from the developing ears, fill a medicine syringe with vegetable or mineral oil and apply several drops to the base of the silk.
  • Then pop a clothespin over the tips of the ears.

4. Double-crop with beans

  • When your corn is about 30 centimetres tall, plant pole beans along the outermost row.

The beans will twine up the stalks and be ready to start picking soon after the corn is ripe.

5. Growing hybrid sweet corn

Hybrid sweet corn comes in several different packages, which are listed in catalogues by their genotype, each with its own code.

Sugary hybrids (Su) have kernels with a sugar content of five to 10 per cent and include traditional favourites like white 'Silver Queen' and yellow 'Early Sunglow.'

  • Harvest ears when they are young and tender, because they will quickly become starchy if allowed to get overripe.

Sugary enhanced hybrids (Se) combine the tenderness and the complex flavour of traditional sweet corn with a higher sugar content — 15 to 18 per cent — that holds for several days or even a week after the corn is ripe.

  • Most home gardeners prefer Se types, which are available in dozens of different varieties.

Supersweet hybrids (Sh2) have the highest sugar content of all (20 to 30 per cent) but often at the expense of tenderness and flavour.

  • The seeds are not strong sprouters, and the plants cannot be grown near other types of corn.
  • Supersweets are fine for freezing and are available in white, yellow and bicolour versions.
The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
Close menu