The Q&A Archives: Planting Corn

Question: What is the best way to plant corn?

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.

Generally, backyard-grown sweet corn seed is planted about 4 inches apart in the row, with rows from 24 to 36 inches apart. Plant 4 to 6 rows in a block rather than a couple of long rows for good pollination and kernel formation. Since corn is wind pollinated, the block planting ensures that the pollen will drift down on to receptive silks instead of out of the garden.

Some gardeners thin corn seedlings to about 8 inches apart, but I've always had good luck keeping them at the original 4 to 6 inch spacing.

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. Plant to fertilize when the plants are about 6 inches tall with a fertilizer containing nitrogen, and then feed again every week or two until you see the silks forming. You can use an organic fertilizer like fish emulsion, or a balanced commercial fertilizer. Water the soil well before applying any dry or granulated fertilizer, and then water it in.

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