The Q&A Archives: Planting Corn

Question: How should I prepare the soil for planting corn? How far apart do I plant the seeds, and what type of fertilizer should I use? What kinds of equipment do growers use to plant the seed?

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. It sounds like you may be trying to grow the crop on a large scale--if so, you may want to get some help from your department of agriculture about best management practices for your region, climate, etc.<br><br>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. (Field corn--for feeding livestock--is spaced more closely.) Though hand-thinning to this spacing is practical for the backyard gardener, it may not be practical when growing on a large scale.<br><br>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" 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. <br><br>Most commercial growers use various tractor-mounted implements to prepare the soil, and seed drills to plant. Again, I would contact experts in your region for more specific help.

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