Picking Corn In The Garden (And How To Grow!)

Fresh sweet corn – don’t you love it? I sure do.  Follow our journey from seed to picking over 20 ears of corn!

We tried growing corn up on the roof for a few years and it grew..sometimes. In 2012 we had the best results on the roof, but each year before and after was hit or miss.  Each year I talked Matthew into trying again, and each year we got small, if any, corn.  Eventually Matthew had to give me a intervention and say that corn was a waste on the roof, why don’t we grow something else?  After huffing and puffing and blowing the house down, I gave in, no more growing corn on the roof.

Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!

So this year, with our first proper growing in the ground, non-rooftop garden, I was determined to grow corn! Lots of it! A entire bed of it!  We are still figuring out our growing schedule, but we decided to plant it in early June.  By July it was growing, but not that tall, and I was becoming nervous because the (legit) farmers around us had corn that was 5 feet tall.  I was worried we started too late.  I was worried the ground wasn’t ideal growing conditions for our corn. Then August came and the corn just took off!  It grew tall! It grew ears! It grew multiple ears on each stalk!  The corn couldn’t control itself, it kept growing and growing and growing!   Last, last weekend, we peeked at the corn and it was white, not the yellow/white combo it was supposed to be, so we gave it one more week.   This past weekend, it was ready.    We picked it. We ate it. I danced with it. 

Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!

Technicals: We grow Xtra-Tender bicolor super sweet corn. I’m in Zone 5A. Corn seeds were planted directly in the soil June 6.  We harvested on September 3.   Seed packets say 73 days to maturity but ours took 89 days.

Here’s the corn 12 days old.
Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!

Here’s the corn 26 days old.
Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!

Here’s the corn 60 days old.
Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!

And finally, 89 days old! (Hanging out with their friend Mr. Sunflower).
Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!

Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!

Ok, ok… pick it already!
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Tips on growing corn:
Plant seeds directly in the ground.  Corn is not a vegetable that likes to start indoors and be transplanted.  Space the corn about 8 inches apart when planting.  Corn is wind pollinated, so growing them together is important for pollination. 

Corn likes soil that is at least 60 degrees for germination.  It loves full sun.

Corn is a big plant so it’s no surprise it needs good watering.  Corn has shallow (but very strong!) roots so it can go into panic mode if it doesn’t get enough water.  Soaker hoses work great in corn beds.  Careful watering is most important in the early stages to get your corn off to the right start.  Once established you don’t have to babysit it too much with watering, just keep a eye out.  Once our corn is about knee high we pretty much just rely on the rain (seriously!) to water it.

Read the seed packet for how many days to maturity, but don’t be surprised if your corn is a few weeks off.  The best way to tell when it’s ready is when the silks are brown.  You can also gently peel some of the husk down to see what the corn looks like.  If it’s filled with corn, and is the right color, then it’s ready.   We grow bicolor yellow/white corn and it starts white first before turning yellow.   If we peel the husk down and the corn is all white, then we’ll dress him back up and give them another week.

To remove ears of corn off the plant, hold the corn stalk with one hand while the other pulls the ear away from the stalk.  Twist it gently and you should hear it crack off the stalk.  

Refrigerate corn as soon as you pick it to keep it fresh and sweet. It stays fresh this way for about 10 days.   For any corn leftover, use a knife to cut the corn off the cob and then freeze corn kernels. 

If you spot a ear worm in your corn after you pick it, don’t freak out.  Just cut that piece of corn off.  Just think that your corn was so tasty the worm wanted a bite.

Deer and raccoons love corn.  There’s lots of sprays and fences on the market to try to keep animals away from corn.  I have a hate/hate relationship with electric fences, but you do whatever you think is best.  In our case we just built a boss fence so animals can’t get into the garden.     If birds are eating your corn, consider placing bird netting on top of corn. Once ears of corn appear, put paper bags on top of them keeping birds out.

This weekend we picked 23 ears of corn, but who’s counting? (I am!).   We saved some for next weekend that needed a little more time.
Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!

And the corn is big!  Yes, I measured it! Don’t lie, you would too.
Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!

So that makes a happy ending to the corn this season.  I’m not sure if we’ll change anything next year as it did so well this year.  
Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!

Now I have to go.. I have grilled corn on the cob to eat!  And I have to tell you that this is the most delicious corn ever!  Homegrown corn is always the best!
Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!

Tell me in the comments if you grow corn, I want to hear all about it!
Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!  

Step by step instructions on how to grow Sweet Corn. It's easy to grow!

12 Comments

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  • Wow!! That is just amazing! Congrats on all that great corn. For whatever reason, bicolor is my favorite although I’m always hearing white corn is sweeter… : )

  • aw lovely story of growing corn. i’m a big fan of corn. i want to plant corns in my back yard , too ( poor me i don’t have any backyard) 🙁
    great work, i can imagine the way you enjoyed it. keep going on, girl. xD

  • We didn’t have room in our Maine vegetable garden for corn and in New Hampshire we had too many deer because of the apple orchard. The farmers in New England used to say, “knee high by the 4th of July” and that was about right in the corn fields there. We couldn’t buy corn from the farm stands until the end of August. Your entire garden has done so well, I’m very happy for you both. You have worked hard and it has certainly paid off.

  • We raise an acre of sweet corn to sell here at our farm. That’s the only fresh produce we sell and it is very popular. A couple of things to be careful of: plant it as early as you can because of the way it pollinates. You see, it can pollinate with the farmer’s field corn nearby!!! If it does, it will taste a lot different than good sweet corn. We are in central IL and try to plant mid April, and we usually sell mid to late July.

    Another thing: watering. Don’t water frequently. Corn needs to have deep roots to stand well, and those roots grow deeper when they are needing water. Sometimes standing well, tho, is a direct result of planting the seed deep enough too. And corn is a big feeder, but your corn looks very healthy so you must have good well fertilized ground. Keep up the good work!!!

    • Hey Ginnie, thanks for stopping by. A acre of sweet corn – wow, what a beautiful sight that has to be! I agree about the water, once the corn is about knee high we pretty much rely just on the rain to water it! I wish we could grow earlier but we are high up in the mountains (I’m thinking you are in Zone 6?)! Thanks for all the tips! Enjoy your corn!

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