Farm Store | articles | How to Grow Sweet Corn

How to Grow Sweet Corn In Your Backyard Garden

Young corn plants thriving behind tomato and zucchini plantsMost backyard gardeners don't plant sweet corn alongside their tomatoes and zucchinis, but with proper care, space and growing conditions, sweet corn can thrive in a backyard garden. Fresh corn on the cob is a summer delight that's sweetest when it's just picked, a perfect reward for the effort!

When to plant

Sweet corn grows best in full sun and in rich, warm soil. It doesn't do as well in frost or freeze conditions, but likely will survive light or scattered frosts. Start planting on or just prior to the mean frost-free date for your region. Planting can continue as late as early July.

Most of today's sweet corn varieties are hybrids. Plant the kernel (seeds) about one inch to one-and-a-half inches deep and about nine inches to 12 inches apart. Plant at least four rows, each four feet long. It can take 65 to 95 days for sweet corn to mature, depending on the variety. For a long lasting sweet corn crop, plant several varieties that mature at different times. When planting more than one variety, place the same variety in side-by-side rows.

Sweet corn growing in the back yard.Water deeply after planting, and again a few days later if there's been no rain. Even though sweet corn flourishes in hot weather, it benefits from regular watering. Use a general purpose fertilizer every few weeks. Weed the rows frequently, but chemical herbicides generally are not recommended for home gardens.

Diseases become more prevalent when the ears form. At that point, silkworms are common pests. During rainy periods, a fungus may develop on the ears. Deer can be a problem, as can blue jays and other birds that help themselves to the crop.

Harvest time

A shucked ear of corn on top of a freshly harvested pile of sweet corn earsEach cornstalk should produce at least one large ear. Many varieties produce a smaller, second ear that develops later than the first ear.

Ears are ready to pick when the unhusked ear has tightly folded, green leaves and dried, dark brown silk. Pull back the husk to expose the tip of the ear. Corn is at its best when the kernels are fully formed, but not fully matured. Known as the milk stage, the juice in the kernel is milky when punctured. Milk stage lasts about a week and usually occurs about 20 days after the first silk strands appear.

If the ear is not ripe, the liquid will be watery. Close the husk to prevent bugs. Some folks use a twist tie around the end.

When the ears are ready, snap them off by hand with a quick, firm, downward push, twist and pull. Hold the cornstalk with your free hand.

After the harvest, the dried stalks can be used in fall decorations or pulled out and composted.

A taste of summer

Proper timing for harvest is crucial to quality. The best time to pick sweet corn is right before eating it. The fresher the corn, the sweeter it will taste. Sweet corn aficionados actually measure freshness in minutes, not hours or days. That's because once picked, the sugar immediately starts turning to starch and the ears lose flavor, kernel quality and sweetness.

If the ears must be stored, pick in the morning when the corn is at peak sweetness. Refrigerate them to slow the sugar-to-starch process. Use the corn within a day or two, husking the ears just prior to cooking.

Shop Vegetable Seed

Related Products

More Products Like This:
Grid View
List View
  • Hybrid Silver Queen Sweetcorn

    SKU 02030904
    You can't go wrong with Hybrid Silver Queen Sweetcorn. Its majestic stalks grow as high as 8' tall during the summer and produces well formed, cylindrical ears that are 8"-9" long with 14-16 rows of tender, snow-white kernels. Matures in 92 days.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Hybrid Peaches N Cream Sweetcorn

    SKU 02040962
    An incredibly popular bicolor sweetcorn! Use Southern States Hybrid Peaches N Cream Sweetcorn seeds to start your crop. It's sugar enhanced with large ears for incredible satisfaction. Matures in 83 days.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Espoma Bio-tone Starter Plus Starter Plant Food 4 lb

    SKU 10206504
    Espoma Bio-tone Starter Plus Starter Plant Food is ideal for difficult soil conditions. Bio-tone helps plants establish quickly, works to stimulate root growth, promotes bigger blooms and improves soil structure.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Hybrid Honey Select Sweetcorn

    SKU 02040957
    A 2001 All-America Selections winner, Southern States Hybrid Honey Select Sweetcorn is a triplesweet variety with 25% super sweet kernels for longer shelf life. Ears grow to 8-1/2", mature in 79 days and are great for fresh markets, home gardens and shipping.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Hybrid Ambrosia Sweetcorn

    SKU 02040963
    The Hybrid Ambrosia Sweetcorn seeds are a great early-to mid-season, sugar enhanced, bi-color hybrid specifically noted for their early vigor and tolerance to Stewart's wilt. The ears grow to about 8" long, are great for eating and ideal for a fresh market, roadside stand or home garden. Under stressful conditions, Ambrosia Sweetcorn may not fill tip completely. Matures in 75 days.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Hybrid Silver King Sweetcorn

    SKU 02030936
    Boil, steam or grill this sweet, white corn for dinner's perfect side dish. The Hybrid Silver King Sweetcorn rivals its sister ears, the Silver Queen variety, but boasts 8" ears with 16-18 rows of kernels. Best of all, this particular variety is tolerant of Stewart's wilt, northern corn leave blight and common rust. Seeds mature in 82 days.
    to see pricing & availability
  • Golden Queen Hybrid Sweetcorn

    SKU 02030905
    One of the best "freezer" sweetcorns, Golden Queen Hybrid Sweetcorn seeds produce 9" long ears with 14-16 rows of large, crisp, golden yellow corn kernels that cover the tip. Growing instructions: Cultivate weekly or mulch to control weeds, and keep soil moist; 93-day maturation period.
    to see pricing & availability

Find Your Nearest Southern States Location

Sales & Offers