Growing Corn:
How to Grow Corn Organically

Growing corn is relatively straightforward as long as you give it plenty of water, plant it in nutrient-rich soil and allow it to get plenty of sunlight. Corn grows quickly and is not too picky about the type of soil it grows in, though clay soil will need some compost added for best results.

There are three groups of corn most commonly grown for the table and freezer. The main difference is in the sugar content. These are normal sweet, sugary enhanced sweet and super sweet. Corn seed comes in yellow, white, and bicolor varieties.

Growing Corn: Plant Snapshot (Zea mays)

Growing Corn
  • Family: Poaceae (Zea mays)
  • Annual or Perennial? Annual - Ready to harvest 65 to 80 days after planting
  • Recommended varieties: Vision, Trinity, Serendipity, Sweetie 82
  • Cold tolerance: Warm Season – Will not survive frost and their seeds will not germinate in cold soil. Plant them at about the average date of the last 32 degree F (0 degree C) temperature in spring.
  • Required Sun: Full sun (at least 6 hours each day)
  • When planning vegetable crop rotation, group with crops from this family: Miscellaneous
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Beet, Bush beans, cabbage, cantaloupe, cucumber, dill, melons, parsley, peas, pumpkin, squash, sunflower
    • Avoid: Tomato
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Growing Corn: Planting the Seed

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Corn seed may be started indoors or directly planted in the ground. Indoors or out, plant the seed about one inch deep, three to four inches apart in a rich soil with good drainage.

Corn should ideally be planted in the northern part of the garden area so they don’t stop sunshine from reaching shorter plants. Plant corn after the soil has warmed to around 70 to 75 degrees and after all danger of frost has passed (corn seeds won’t germinate below 60 degrees F (15.6 C)).

Snapshot: Planting Corn

  • Planting depth: about 1 inch (2.54 cm)
  • Spacing in rows: about 10 inches (25 cm)
  • Germination soil temperature: 60 to 85 degrees F (15.6 to 29 degrees C)
  • Days to germination: 10 to 12 days
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Growing Corn: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

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Corn is a heavy feeder, so ensure that the plants get a healthy helping of compost when they are about 15 inches high. Organic garden fertilizers suitable for corn include partially rotted manure, blood meal and fish emulsion.

Full sun and ample moisture are essential for proper growth. A drip irrigation system works great for corn.

Once the plants are about 6 feet high, mound soil around their bases so the roots stay cool and covered. Mulch will help to retain moisture and keep most garden weeds at bay.

Snapshot: Growing Corn

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 5.5 to 7.0
  • Growing soil temperature: 70 to 75 degrees F (21.1 to 23.8 degrees C)
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Growing Corn: Harvesting Time

You’ know when your corn is ready to pick because the ear will be completely filled with kernels. These kernels will leak a milky, white liquid when pierced. Another sign that corn is ready for picking is a brown, crisp silk peeking out of the leaves.

Most corn will be just right to harvest about 20 days after you can see the silk begin to grow. When it’s time to pick corn, simply grab the ear, twist and pull down and snap it from the stalk.

Snapshot: Harvesting Corn

  • Time to harvest: About 12-15 weeks
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Storing Corn and Freezing Corn

Normal sweet corn may be stored in the refrigerator for about two days before it starts to lose its fresh-picked quality, although the corn varieties that are more sugary will keep in the refrigerator for a week or more. You will need to husk ears of corn before placing them in plastic bags for refrigerator storage.

To freeze corn, husk, trim, de-silk and wash the ears, then water blanch from four to seven minutes, depending on whether the corn will stay on the cob (needs closer to 7 minutes on the cob) or be cut off to make whole kernel or cream style corn (closer to 4 minutes).

Once blanched, remove from water, cool completely, then freeze ears or cut or scrape the corn from the ears. Package corn, then seal and place into freezer.

Corn seed will last for two years.

Snapshot: Storing Corn & Freezing Corn

  • Storage temperature: 32 to 40 degrees F (0 to 4.44 degrees C)
  • Humidity: 90 to 95% relative humidity
  • Storage life (unfrozen in above conditions): 2 days
  • Storage life (frozen): 6 months
  • Seed longevity: About 2 years
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Growing Corn: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Corn. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.

Pests

  • Aphids
  • Armyworms
  • Corn earworm
  • Cucumber beetles
  • Cutworms
  • Earwigs
  • Flea Beetles
  • Garden symphylans
  • Grasshoppers
  • Leafminers
  • Nematodes
  • Seedcorn maggot
  • Spider mites
  • Thrips
  • Wireworms

Diseases

  • Bacterial soft rot
  • Common smut
  • Damping off and seed rots
  • Fusarium ear and stalk rot
  • Head smut
  • Maize dwarf mosaic virus
  • Rust
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YOUR Experience & Advice About Growing Corn

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