How to Grow Corn

Corn is a tender plant that's easily damaged by cold weather. Sow it or put out transplants only after the soil has warmed.

Fresh Sweet Corn on the Cob

Fresh Sweet Corn on the Cob

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

When to Start: mid- to late spring
At Their Best: late summer
Time to Complete: a few hours over several weeks

Materials Needed:

  • corn seeds
  • compost
  • small pots for sowing
  • seed labels
  • string
  • ruler

How to Sow

Corn will be ready for planting about six weeks after sowing indoors in pots. Clear all weeds from the soil and dig it over thoroughly. Plant out in square blocks — which aids pollination — spacing plants 14 inches apart. You can also sow direct from late spring onward, but sow two seeds per spot in case one of them fails to grow.

Plant Corn in Square Blocks

Plant Corn in Square Blocks

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Test for Ripeness

Once the tassels turn brown, test regularly for ripeness. Press a nail into a kernel — if a milky liquid comes out, it's ready; if watery, it's under-ripe; but if doughy, the corn has passed its best.

Testing Corn for Ripeness

Testing Corn for Ripeness

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Harvesting the Cobs

Pick the cobs by twisting them off, only when you're ready to cook them; their natural sugars quickly turn starchy once picked. Corn is delicious wrapped in foil and grilled on a barbecue.

Picking Corn Cobs

Picking Corn Cobs

2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - How to Grow Practically Everything

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Top Tip: Intercropping

Try growing other crops among your corn, because its foliage lets lots of light through to the ground. Use quick maturing crops such as lettuces, or corn’s traditional intercropping partners, winter squash and pumpkin.

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