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How to grow sweet corn

How to grow sweet corn

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Growing sweet corn is easy and fun, especially if you choose the right variety. In this article, we'll talk about some of the most popular types of sweet corn, how to improve your soil for better growing results and even when in the season to harvest so your ears are at their best.

Pick a suitable variety

Sweet corn is best eaten fresh, but if you want to preserve it for later, freezing or canning are the best options. Once picked, sweet corn should be used or preserved within two days.

There are many varieties of sweet corn available that grow in different climates and soil types. Selecting the right variety can help ensure success; some varieties may not grow well in your area while others may take longer than usual to mature.

Improve the soil with organic matter

To improve the soil, use organic matter such as compost or manure. If your soil is too acidic, add lime.

Organic matter improves the soil by adding nutrients, which feed microbes and create an environment that allows plants to grow better.

Know your climate

Before you plant, you need to figure out what kind of sweet corn you want to grow. That will depend on the climate in your area. If you live in a climate with a warm growing season and hot summers like the Midwest, then you can grow “ear-type” sweet corn—the kind that has kernels on individual ears rather than all together in one cob. On the other hand, if your region has cooler nights and shorter growing seasons like most of New England where I live (and where my garden is), then it's better to plant “sugar” or “baby” varieties instead. These types have all their kernels on one long cob and are ready for harvest at around 60 days after planting instead of 150-180 days for regular types.

The next thing to consider when planning how much space each type needs is how big they'll get at maturity; some varieties produce ears up to six feet tall! That makes them ideal candidates for growing vertically so there's more room left below ground level for other plants such as lettuce greens or peas (which would otherwise shade out those tall stalks).

Space plants properly

Sweet corn is typically planted in blocks rather than rows. This spacing allows the plants to grow tall and produce ears that are more upright, giving you better pollination and a larger yield. You can space the plants according to the size of the variety, or plant them three feet apart if you’re growing multiple varieties together. I find it much easier to manage several varieties from one planting block than from multiple separated rows, as well as more aesthetically pleasing (and less work!).

Mulch for weed control

When you're growing sweet corn, it's best to mulch the area around the plants. This will help keep the soil cool and moist so that your sweet corn can grow strong and healthy. Mulching will also prevent weeds from sprouting in your garden and help retain moisture in your soil as well as control erosion.

If you don't want to use an organic material like straw or hay, then consider using black plastic sheeting instead. The only downside of this material is that it may heat up during hot days, which could affect plant growth.

Harvest at the correct time

The timing of your harvest depends on the variety you are growing and how long you want to keep it in the ground. For example, if you planted a hybrid variety (such as Silver Queen or Early Sweet), then your corn will be ready for harvest at about 50 days after planting – much earlier than an heirloom variety such as Gooey Butter or Golden Bantam.

Just like tomatoes, sweet corn is ripe when the kernels are plump and the husks dry out; check its readiness by pulling back a few husks to see if they're dry. If they're not yet ready for picking, simply leave them in the ground until they are!


Remember that corn is a warm-season vegetable. It can produce well in most climates, but the best yields happen when you grow it in areas with long summer days and temperatures of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Sweet corn will grow in cooler climates if you use row covers or shade cloth to keep the plants warmer than they would be otherwise.