Growing Sweet Corn:
How to Grow Sweet Corn Organically

Growing sweet corn that reaches its full potential requires plenty of space, abundant sunshine, and rich, moist soil. This page will teach you how to grow sweet corn successfully, the organic way.

Growing Sweet Corn: Plant Snapshot (Zea mays)

Growing Sweet Corn
  • Family: Poaceae (Grass family)
  • Annual or Perennial? Annual – Ready to harvest 65 to 80 days after planting
  • Recommended varieties: Vision, Trinity, Serendipity, Sweetie
  • 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: Pole Beans, Peas
  • Companion plants (see Companion Planting Charts for more info):
    • Companions: Beet, Bush beans, cabbage, cantaloupe, cucumber, dill, melons, parsley, peas, pumpkin, squash, sunflower
    • Avoid: Tomatoes
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Growing Sweet Corn: Planting the Seed

Where to Find Planting Supplies...

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The ground being used to plant sweet corn seeds must be warm enough - at least 60 degrees F (15.6 C) - as it hates the cold. And make sure the area where you plan to plant the corn has been fortified with compost or other organic matter.

Plant corn seed about one inch (2.5 cm) deep and 10 inches (25 cm) apart, in pre-decided blocks of soil where three rows have been arranged. Space the rows about 10 inches (25 cm) apart.

Snapshot: Planting Sweet 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 Sweet Corn: From Germination to Pre-Harvest

Where to Find Growing & Plant Care Supplies...

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Many cool-climate gardeners will place a layer of black plastic over the plants (with a hole cut out for the plants to grow) once they are visible. This helps to retain both the heat and the moisture in the soil and will keep garden weeds at bay. In warmer climates, organic mulch will do the trick.

Once the plants are about 6 feet high, mound soil around their bases so the roots stay cool and covered.

You will need to water sweet corn carefully and thoroughly, especially as the summer heat begins to rise. Corn remains happy with an initial application of an organic garden fertilizer for vegetables upon planting and repeated applications each month.

Snapshot: Growing Sweet Corn

  • Preferred soil pH (see soil pH tester for more information): 5.5 to 7.0
  • Growing soil temperature: 60 to 95 degrees F (15.5 to 35 degrees C)
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Growing Sweet Corn: Harvesting Time

Sweet corn will be mature enough to harvest fifteen to twenty-four days after the silk begins to peek out of the ears of corn. The silk will be dry and brown, the husks will be moist and green and the ears will be plump and release a milky juice if punctured.

To harvest sweet corn, pull and twist the ears from the stalk.

Snapshot: Harvesting Sweet Corn

  • Time to harvest: About 12 to 15 weeks after planting
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Storing Sweet Corn and Freezing Sweet Corn

The sooner sweet corn is used, the sweeter it will be. If sweet corn cannot be eaten quickly, in can be stored in the refrigerator uncovered for up to two days with the husks still attached.

Sweet corn may be preserved at the peak of freshness by freezing. Corn should be blanched for four minutes, drained, cooled, and packed into freezer bags or containers, then frozen.

The seed of sweet corn are viable for about 2 years.

Snapshot: Storing Sweet Corn & Freezing Sweet 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): about 2 days
  • Storage life (frozen): 6 months
  • Seed longevity: About 2 years
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Growing Sweet Corn: Pests & Diseases

The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Sweet 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 Sweet Corn

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