How To Grow Corn

Type: Annual
Name: Zeamays rugosa
Light: Full sun
Soil Type: Rich, sandy loam
Soil Temperature: 60 – 75°
ph Range: 5.8 – 7.0
Watering: Moist, not soggy
Plant (Payson): May 1 – July 15
Planting Method: Seed
Germination: 7 – 10 days
Transplant: Available but not recommended
Maturity: Varies
Common Pests: Corn earworm, corn borers, cucumber beetle larva (corn rootworm), flea beetle
Common Diseases: Bacterial wilt, leaf blight, rust


Corn has been an American staple more than 4000 years. Corn is available as popcorn, dent (corn meal & animal feed), Indian Flint corn, sweet and supersweet. It will cross pollinate so isolate it (as much as possible) from other varieties or stagger plantings by two weeks.


Corn is a heavy feeder of Nitrogen, so work in a generous amount of compost and add Glen’s Magic to each hole when planting. Soil should contain generous amounts of organic matter. Make sure you have enough space for at least 16 plants, planted in a block, for good pollination. (Glen’s Magic recipe – Gardening 101 – Fertilizers)



Available but not recommended. If you have to transplant for some reason be careful to disturb the roots as little as possible.


Sow seeds 1/2 -2 inches deep. Even deeper is better, but will take longer to germinate. Plant two seeds per hole, 12-18 inches apart, then thin to one plant per hole, 12-18 inches apart. As stated above, plant in blocks to insure good pollination of developing ears. Corn grows quite tall with both deep and fairly shallow roots. The shallow side roots need to be covered to prevent “floppy” corn. “Hilling” or covering side roots with soil may increase the ability of the corn stalks to withstand the strong winds we have in the garden, especially during our rainy season.

planting seeds tape measurer 1

Corn develops two root systems. Seminal roots form first and mainly bring in nutrients and water to the developing seeds. Nodal roots begin forming after the seedling emerges from the soil and are the primary roots that hold the plant upright. Nodal roots are easily damaged by either dry or soggy soil close to the surface. This damage restricts nutrient and water flow to the plant. If damage is severe, “floppy” corn can result, where any hint of wind can knock the stalk over. To protect these roots, plant corn 2 inches deep, insure the soil surface is kept moist, but not dry or soggy. Use mulch if necessary and don’t cultivate around developing roots.


Corn must be consistently moist. Never allow to dry out or become soggy. Good soil preparation and mulching will assist in retaining the moisture the corn needs for a productive harvest.


Fertilize with an organic all-purpose fertilizer when the stalks are 6 inches high, and again when the first silks appear.


Corn doesn’t compete well with weeds and the shallow roots are easily damaged. A good mulching policy is recommended.


Bacterial wilt, leaf blight, rust


Corn earworms, corn borers, cucumber beetle larva (corn rootworm), flea beetle. Check ears as soon as they appear, as pests can be very persistent. Some say a drop of mineral oil at the very tip of each ear can help prevent infestation. The best way to protect corn from bugs is to use flowering companion plants such as marigold, yarrow, dill, geranium and amaranth. Plant around the perimeter only, not among the corn seeds.


Start checking the ears about three weeks after the silks appear. Silks should be brown and dry to the touch. Kernels should be tender and show a liquid that is milky white when the kernel is pierced with your fingernail or knife.


Refrigerate as soon as possible after harvesting which will keep the sugars in the fresh corn from turning to starch. Corn may be canned or frozen either on the cob or after removal from the cob.

frozen corn

 Helpful Links

To aid in your gardening success, here are some useful, trusted links for more information on corn.

Growing Corn:Beginner's Guide - Morning Chores

The Complete Guide to Growing Corn in Containers - Gardening Chores

Tips on Growing Corn in the Garden - Gardening Know How

Please remember Payson Community Garden is an organic garden. Some of these sites may contain recommendations for non-organic products. Please see this website or Plant Fair Nursery website for a list of recommended products
that meet the organic standards of Payson Community Garden.

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