The Q&A Archives: Soil Type For Sweet Corn

Question: Our garden is gumbo mixed with top soil. We add gypsum every year as well as sterile steer manure. Our corn has not done well the last few years (sprouting or producing)and we wondered if there was any special technique or steps that we could take to give us a better harvest. We also use a underground sprinkling system in the garden.

Thanks for your help.

Answer: Corn requires full sun and a rich loam soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8. It's hard to say exactly what you should do to prepare your soil, since I don't know its present state, but generally it's a good idea to add organic matter--compost, well-rotted manure, etc, and lime as necessary to adjust pH.

Generally, backyard-grown sweet corn seed is planted about 4 inches apart in the row, with rows from 24 to 36" apart. The plants are then thinned to about 8" apart.

Corn is a heavy feeder. Even if you have rich soil, and have worked in compost or manure, you still may want to fertilize during the growing season. Some growers spread superphosphate before tilling. Plan to fertilize when the plants are about 6" tall with a fertilizer containing nitrogen, and then feed again every week or two until you see the silks forming. You can use anorganic fertilizer like fish emulsion, or a balanced commercial fertilizer.

Corn is a warm-season crop and the seeds germinate best in warm soils. If you've had difficulty with good germination, perhaps the soil was too cold.

Hope the above guides you into growing healthy, productive corn this summer.

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