Share this Post
How to Grow Corn
Learning how to grow corn in your garden or even in your small urban space is a fun and rewarding experience. Corn can be an easy crop to grow despite common mistakes while learning. After all, it is a domesticated wild grass and one of the subsistence crops that farmers have used for decades to survive.
Grow Corn in ANY Space
Corn is domesticated from wild grass and can grow vigorously with little extra help if it has good soil, full sun, and regular watering. Corn can be grown in pots, raised beds, and limited-space gardens. Of key importance is to avoid the most common mistakes when planting corn for the first time. Avoid these mistakes, and your corn will grow bountifully and flavorfully!
Common Mistakes When Learning How to Grow Corn
Germination of the Corn Seed
Corn is a very easy seed to start. It can easily be direct sown into the ground or started in starter pots. When you are direct sowing corn seeds in the ground, remember that corn is a birdseed ingredient; birds, crows, mice, and rats LOVE corn. When planting the corn directly in the soil, we recommend covering it with row cover to keep animals from eating it. Another thing that the row cover will do is hold in vital moisture essential for the germination of the seed. This pro-tip can help when you are germinating any seed in the ground. Simply plant the seed at the correct depth, water well, and cover with row cover to hold in moisture and protect the seedlings.
You should only directly sow corn seed in the ground once the soil has warmed to at least 65 degrees; this is the minimum temperature for the germination of corn seed. Corn seed does not germinate well in cold soils. The warmer the soil, the quicker the seed will germinate.
When starting corn seeds in starter pots, the key factor is to remember that corn seeds grow very quickly. Vigorous seeds can easily fill up the cells of a starter pot within days of germination. Corn plants in starter pots should be transplanted-out quickly to ensure they are not root-bound. We do not recommend purchasing corn transplants from a nursery as they tend to be root-bound, leading to stunted plants.
How to Grow Corn with Adequate Pollination
When learning to grow corn from seed, the other common mistake new gardeners and growers make is that they do not plant enough corn plants in a configuration conducive to good pollination. Pollination of corn is essential for the full development of corn cobs. We have all seen when a corn cob is missing tons of corn kernels. This is a sure sign that pollination was not sufficient for the corn, which has led to corn’s poorly developed ears.
Corn is a wind-pollinated crop. For good corn pollination, you want to ensure that pollen falls from the tassels (the male flowers located at the top of the corn plant) down to the silks (the female flowers on the ear of corn). You can make this happen by planting the corn in blocks close together (4–6″ apart). The more corn stalks you can grow, the more pollination will occur naturally. You can hand pollinate the corn instead if you only have space for a handful of corn stalks to grow on your patio or garden. Hand pollination involves shaking the corn stalks to allow pollen from the tassels to release and fall on the silks below. The pollen itself appears as fine wind-blown dust. Here is a quick video showing the process.
Once your corn has been pollinated, the plant will develop delicious, fully pollinated ears of corn, with each kernel developed for enjoyment in your kitchen.
If you avoid these most common mistakes and provide the most basic growing conditions for corn — full sun, regular water, and good soil, your corn will grow quickly and with little extra help.