How to grow corn from seed (Complete Guide)

how to grow corn from seed

Everything You Need To Know To Grow Epic Corn! The big daddy of backyard gardens has to be Corn. Tall, impressive plants with the amazingly sweet bounty that is synonymous with summer. In this article, I’ll show you how to grow the best Corn, seed-to-harvest, in just 10sq feet in your own backyard!

The basics to grow epic corn

The basics to grow epic corn

Before we get started here let’s make sure that you have everything you need to grow that epic corn. Corn is a big crop and it’s planted in blocks of at least eight to twelve stalks, spaced at a foot apart a minimum area of 10 square feet is usually required.

The roots are relatively shallow, but a foot of soil depth should be the minimum.

Also, corn loves full sun. It needs eight-plus hours a day no exceptions, shady spots need not apply.

Soil should be rich, well-drained, and neutral ph. If you can fulfill those requirements you and your garden are definitely corn-ready.

Seed vs starter plants to grow corn

Seed vs starter plants

Traditionally corn is direct-seeded when the soil temperatures have risen above 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 degrees celsius. If your summer is ultra-short or if you intend to plant a crop extremely late in the season you can plant starter plants to get that head start but direct seeding these guys is far more common.

So like we said before seeding soil temperatures need to be 50 degrees Fahrenheit or above.

To grow corn start with preparing the garden bed

start with preparing the garden bed

Prep the bed much like you would any other stone crop by laying down a 2-inch thick layer of quality topsoil. Make it nice and level and we’re ready to seed.

Unlike a lot of other seed crops corn is neither soaked prior to planting nor is it planted when the temperatures are cold. Many seeds like beets, peas, and carrots will just lie in wait for the most favorable conditions to sprout, not corn! Plant it too cold and it’ll just rot and it makes sense corn is grass and for as fast as it grows it germinates and sprouts even faster.

So with our bed prepped we can either dig one-inch holes and place the seeds inside or we can place the seeds right on top and cover with another inch of topsoil. The same end result, so dealer’s choice.

Space the seeds six inches apart which is exactly half the recommended spacing that corn actually needs, more on that later. Continue covering with that one inch of topsoil a light but liberal mulch and water heavily.

Within five to seven days your corn will likely have sprouted.

Spacing corn

Spacing corn

Okay, remember how we talked about that spacing, at around the two-week mark I like to thin every second plant to give me that perfect one-foot spacing between the stalks and the rose.

Speaking of rows and spacing in general, corn is spaced not only for the mature plant requirements but also for pollination. You see corn is almost entirely anemophilous or wind-pollinated and as a grass corn is also what’s called monecious, but with imperfect flowers.

Sorry for the two big words so close together. What that means though is that corn has both male tassels and female silks flowers on one plant.

The tassels are situated above the apex of the plant and they’re the first to emerge. Soon after that, the silks appear which are actually pollen tubes each attached to a single corn kernel inside the growing year. Tell me that’s not amazing!

The pollen falls by gravity and wind and is caught by the silks, fertilizing the kernels, giving us that juicy corn four to six weeks later. However, it’s a messy business and the tubes often go unpollinated. That’s where the spacing comes in.

By planting at that one-foot spacing and in neat blocks of rose we can ensure maximum pollination resulting in the best years of corn and with such a uniform crop this is relatively easy to accomplish.

Corn Care

Corn Care

Corn is pretty easy to care for in the 8 to 12 weeks from sprouting to harvest. It does suck up a lot of water and a healthy amount of nutrients but other than that it requires little care.

Poor air circulation, overfeeding, and unhealthy plants can see pest outbreaks such as aphids, but those are usually symptomatic of another issue rather than an inherent causality.

Keep the plants spaced, well water from below but not drowning them, and don’t go overboard on the nitrogen fertilizers. Use a balanced dilute organic liquid feed every three weeks and you’re gonna be just fine.

Corn Harvesting Time

Harvesting Time

After about a month or so the male tassels begin to form at the top of the plant, like we mentioned these are the male pollen-producing flowers.

Shortly after the silks or female flowers emerge from the first or second leaf node along the stalk. Over the course of around a month, the tassels continually drop pollen onto the silks until they’re all fertilized.

Again this is why the spacing is so important as the more tassels that you have above the better chance you have at all the silks getting pollinated.

Corn is way too intensive and resources expensive of a crop to end up with unfertilized ears.

As for when to actually harvest we get two clues for this:

  1. The first is the silks. When they turn brown and brittle that’s usually our first clue that the corn is ready to pick.
  2. The second clue and to really confirm that this is the case is the simple squish test. Pull back or peel a few of those protective leaf layers and puncture a kernel with your fingernail. You want it to be slightly milky for the perfect sugar content. Too clear tells you that the ears are not quite ready yet and too milky you run the risk of the harvest being over ripe and too starchy.

Harvesting is easy! Simply grab the stalk and pull the ear straight down. Ripe ears will very easily just snap off. You shouldn’t need to twist them and you shouldn’t need to pull.

How to store corn

I get asked this question all the time and the simple answer is you don’t. Pick corn the day that you’re gonna eat it and most certainly use corn within two days of harvest.

If you do have to store them however keep them loose in your refrigerator. Put them in a plastic bag to hold in the moisture and prevent those kernels from drying out.

That was a lot of information and I think we covered it all. Instead of a traditional recap, I documented the last three months of this crop here of golden bantam sweet corn.

Let me show you the entire process of growing corn seed to harvest condensed down into a couple of minutes.

Quick Recap of the entire process to grow corn from seed to harvest

Quick Recap of  the entire process to grow corn from seed to harvest

I planted this bed of sweet corn in June and it was actually my second planting of the year.

Like seeding any crop the first thing we need to do is prep the bed. This means clear out the weeds and level with topsoil.

An extremely thick cover crop of rye is the current resident so weeds won’t be a problem, just need to clear it out.

Using no-dig practices means simply cutting it down right to the soil level. Next, I’ll lay down a layer of brown craft paper followed by a skim coat of quality topsoil.

Leveled off and we essentially have a brand new bed for planting. I spaced my corn seeds at intervals of six inches, covered with another thin layer of that topsoil and mulch liberally with some straw.

One good watering and that’s another successful corn crop for the books. Less than a week later the corn sprouted with gusto and on day 26 I trimmed the corn down to its traditional one-foot spacing. Doing this a week or two earlier would have been much more desirable.

The corn grew amazingly fast as corn does and at day 39 the male tassels began to emerge. A full two weeks after that the silk started to show itself. Pollination continued over the next three weeks bringing us right to today 83 days since we first planted.


Corn is definitely an impressive crop and when you get it right it’s a harvest that the family goes crazy for. Hopefully, with these tips and tricks, your next corn planting is a successful one. Hey, thanks so much for reading guys.

I appreciate the support more than you know and if you’re getting value from these articles please share them to spread the word and help your fellow gardener to grow better.

I am Fenil Kalal. Professionally I have done Engineering in Information and Technology. Gardening is my passion/love/favorite hobby and I have 5+ years of experience in Gardening.

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