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Gardening Articles: Care :: Plant Care Techniques

How to Have the Earliest Corn (page 2 of 2)

by National Gardening Association Editors

Gardening Without Fertilizer

You can raise corn without any fertilizer whatsoever (neither organic nor man-made) if you rotate it with edible cover crops of peas and beans and annual ryegrass. Peas, beans and other legumes have the ability to replenish some of the soil's supply of nitrogen. You may also need to add lime or sulfur to maintain the proper pH.

You'll grow the healthiest, most productive crops with the following two-year rotation sequence: first year -- an early edible crop of peas, followed by snap beans or soybeans, followed by annual ryegrass; second year -- one crop of sweet corn, followed by annual ryegrass.

The first year's cover crops yield a lot of peas and beans. Immediately after each harvest, till in the crop residues to add valuable organic matter and nitrogen to the soil. The cover crops are planted in a solid block, rather than in rows. The plants are lush and thick, shading the soil and blocking the weeds.

After you harvest the last beans in late summer, till under the plants and plant the third cover crop of annual ryegrass. This grass dies when the cold weather hits, and it mats to insulate the soil during the winter, making it warmer so soil life remains active longer.

Come spring, till the ryegrass under for additional organic matter, which helps condition the soil. The next crop, the sweet corn, produces beautifully in rich, naturally fertile, nearly weed-free soil.


Some gardeners mulch their corn to prevent weeds and to keep the soil moist. Although mulching can be beneficial in hot, dry climates, keep in mind that you'll need quite a load of mulch material -- hay, straw, leaves, peat moss, etc. -- to take care of a good stand of corn. As long as you give corn a steady supply of food and water, it really doesn't require much other care.


If you plant corn in hills or plant the rows too thickly, you'll have to thin out some plants to make sure the others have enough room to grow. Thin when the seedlings are about four inches tall.

The best time to thin is after a rain when the plants have dried but the soil is still moist. The plants pull easily from the soil without disturbing neighboring seedlings.

To thin, just pull up enough plants so that those remaining in the row or hill will be 10 inches apart. If you crowd your corn a bit -- about 8 inches apart -- don't worry, it should do fine; but if you're just getting the hang of raising corn, give your plants more room.

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