How to Make a Corn Maze

Specialized companies create most modern corn mazes, but you can grow a small cornfield in your own backyard.
The Rock Ranch 2014 corn maze interior

The Rock Ranch 2014 corn maze interior

Corn mazes are popular destinations for family fun each fall. This 4-acre maze, an annual attraction at The Rock Ranch, a family fun and educational attraction about an hour outside Atlanta, takes roughly 30 minutes to walk.

Photo by: Courtesy of The Rock Ranch/King Davis

Courtesy of The Rock Ranch/King Davis

Corn mazes are popular destinations for family fun each fall. This 4-acre maze, an annual attraction at The Rock Ranch, a family fun and educational attraction about an hour outside Atlanta, takes roughly 30 minutes to walk.

If you remember your Greek myths from high school, you know mazes have been around for thousands of years. King Minos, according to one myth, had a maze, or labyrinth, built to hold the fearsome Minotaur. The maze was so complex, only its designer could find his way back out. 

Today, corn mazes are designed for fun, and they’re popular across the U.S., where visitors can explore their twists and turns each fall. The Rock Ranch, a 1,500-acre agritourism destination an hour south of Atlanta, creates a different maze every year to entertain and educate families and school groups. Founded by the late S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A, The Rock Ranch was originally a cattle ranch. This year’s theme is “75 Years of Oz,” in honor of the classic movie’s 75th anniversary. 

Before you can put the fun in a maze, says Adam Pugh, The Rock Ranch's Director of Marketing and Events, you have to grow your corn. Like many mazes, The Rock Ranch uses a tropical silage variety that’s best suited for growing late in the season. Each spring, The Rock Ranch grows sweet corn that’s harvested and sold in its farm market. In early July, the field is tilled again and re-planted with the silage. 

Because creating a corn maze can be an overwhelming job, many entertainment destinations and farm owners contract with outside companies. The Rock Ranch works with The Maize Company, known as the world’s largest cornfield maze design firm. 

Workers begin by using a tractor-pulled planter to sow the corn seeds 1-¼” deep. The seeds are “cross-planted,” or planted north and south, and then east and west, to yield a thick stand of corn in rows that intersect at right angles. The Rock Ranch corn maze covers 4 acres and requires some 38,000 seeds per acre to plant the rows, which are spaced 36 inches apart. 

Once the seeds are planted, water cannons—overhead irrigation systems—distribute at least an inch of water a week, if rainfall is scarce. Water is pulled into the cannons from an on-site pond.  The fast-growing corn sprouts in about a week, and when it’s 3 to 6 inches tall, the design is cut in. 

While The Maize Company originally used a modified weed whacker to cut paths in the corn—a process that took up to three weeks—today the design starts on a computer and paths are cut while the corn is still short. It takes about two months for the cornstalks to grow head-high or taller. The paths are kept raked and weeded and covered with straw or mulch to make walking easier. 

Visitors are meant to get lost in the corn, at least for a while. Some mazes offer multiple exit points, so they can leave early, if they’re ready. At The Rock Ranch, “corn cops,” or spotters, sit in deer stands above the field to help wanderers who don’t know where to go next. 

When the season ends, and the maze closes, the corn isn’t wasted. The ears are picked mechanically and ground into an all-natural livestock feed for the resident cattle. The stalks are tilled under to help replenish the soil. 

Although you can’t grow a maze in your backyard unless you have a lot of room, Pugh says you can grow corn on a smaller scale, using the same process that’s used at The Rock Ranch.

“The first step in gardening is to just do it. Schedule some time and plan to get dirty. You don’t have to win a blue ribbon the first time, so don’t be afraid to mess up,” he says. 

Pugh’s tips for growing corn: 

  • Prepare the soil by breaking up the soil and removing weeds, rocks and other debris.
  • Have a soil sample analyzed by your local extension service. “Add compost or soil amendments if needed and make a bed for your seeds that looks like something an earthworm would love to hang out in,” he says.
  • Plant in a spot with well-draining soil that gets full sun. 
  • Give the corn about an inch of water a week if there’s not enough rain. Water deeply and thoroughly, but don’t let the plants stand in puddles. Pugh suggests capturing run-off rainwater in a barrel, or watering from a pond, if possible. “Plants often do not respond as well to city water as they do with pond, well or rain water.”
  • “Corn uses a lot of nitrogen so do the research and make the call on how to add nitrogen to your soil (chemical fertilizer versus organic.) Be sure to choose a seed that is suited for your region and the time of year, and consult your local University Agricultural extension system for soil testing and other advice.”
  • Let your kids help. Pugh says, “Happy planting, and remember, the best part (of growing a garden) is the time spent together.”

Next Up

Vegetables You Can Plant for a Fall Harvest

Savvy gardeners know a thriving fall garden starts in summer. Start planting these cool-weather favorites now.

How to Do Hardwood Cuttings

Late fall is the best time to start growing a new hardwood tree.

Late-Start Gardening: What Can I Still Put in the Ground?

There are still plenty of vegetables and herbs that you can plant in your garden after Memorial Day. HGTV blogger Meagan Francis offers her tips.

Planting Fall Peas

Cultivate a fall crop of peas with these helpful suggestions.

Mums vs. Asters and How To Use Them in Your Landscape

Don't toss those potted mums and asters after they bloom, plant them in your yard.

Winter Wheat Planting

Put your vegetable garden to bed with a cover crop—and it will wake up next spring with better soil.

Fall Planting Tips

When it comes to autumn, follow these tips for trees, shrubs, perennials and berries.

Growing Edibles in the Shade

Learn what you can grow if your yard isn't blessed with an abundance of sunshine.

How to Design a Garden With Mums

Make your fall garden glow with jewel-colored mums.

Planting Asparagus

Asparagus takes two years to produce abundant harvests but is definitely worth the wait.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.


Flea Market Flip

7:30am | 6:30c

Flea Market Flip

8:30am | 7:30c

Flea Market Flip

9:30am | 8:30c

Flip or Flop

10am | 9c

Flip or Flop

10:30am | 9:30c

Flip or Flop

11am | 10c

Flip or Flop

11:30am | 10:30c

Flip or Flop

12pm | 11c

Flip or Flop

12:30pm | 11:30c

Fixer Upper

1pm | 12c

Fixer Upper

2pm | 1c

Fixer Upper

3pm | 2c

Fixer Upper

4pm | 3c

Fixer Upper

5pm | 4c

Fixer Upper

6pm | 5c

Fixer Upper

7pm | 6c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Beach Hunters

8pm | 7c

Mexico Life

11pm | 10c

Mexico Life

11:30pm | 10:30c

Caribbean Life

12am | 11c

Mexico Life

2am | 1c

Mexico Life

2:30am | 1:30c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.