How to Grow Corn
In this article, we share a comprehensive guide to growing corn at home.
Quick Guide Information
Common Name: Corn
Scientific Name: Zea mays
Life Span: Annual
Time Till Harvest: 90-180 days
Light Requirement: Full Sun
Optimum pH: 6.0 - 6.5
Corn is a staple crop for millions of people and is in fact one of the most cultivated plants in the world. While you may not decide to plant an entire field of corn, even a small part of a garden planted with corn can be rewarding. Its tall and lean structure also make it perfect for companion planting with other crops as is traditionally done with the famous "three sisters" polyculture that includes corn, beans, and squash.
Plus, another exciting thing about growing corn are the endless varieties you can plant that cannot be found at a local shop. Red corn, blue corn, multi-coloured corn, and so many more. You can even grow popcorn if you want! Find a variety that is tested true for your region for best results.
Corn is an annual crop that thrives in warm weather. In hot climates you can harvest corn in as little as 3 months while in cooler climates it can take up to twice that or more. It produces best in fertile and well-draining soils, but it handles a variety of soil types. When choosing a variety of corn, it is always best to find something that has been proven to work in your local climate.
Propagation, Planting, and Maintenance
Corn is always propagated by seed. It is most recommended to direct seed as it does not take very well to transplants.
1. Plant corn in mid-spring well past the threat of last frost and once the weather has warmed up. They require temperatures of at least 10C for germination but usually between 15-20C is preferred.
2. Choose a location with full sun and fertile soil. Amend generously with compost if you have it available.
3. Plant 3-4 seeds about 5 cm deep into the soil. All of these plants will grow from a single hole and support each other as they grow. This is the traditional method for corn planting.
4. Continue planting with every hole being spaced about 75 cm apart.
5. After about 1 to 2 weeks your corn will germinate and begin growing. At this point you can mulch heavily around your freshly sprouted plants.
6. Once your plants are over 1 meter high you can move mulch and soil around the base of your plant. This will help support it as it grows and prevent it from leaning.
7. Keep bed well weeded and pile material around the base of the plants as needed. After several months you will see the development of flowers followed by the corn.
8. You know the corn is ready once the tassels begin to go from a light colour to brown. You can harvest the corn fresh at this stage for roasting. Alternatively, you can leave the corn on the stalk and let it dry for the making of corn flour.
Slow Growth - This can be caused due to lack of nutrients or just cold weather. If you're planting a bit outside of corn's preferred range this can cause it. Look for a cold-hardy strain. Leaning
Plants - Once the corn cobs get heavy the plants can start to lean. This can be catastrophic, especially on a storm or windy day. You need to mulch heavily around the base of the plants to further protect them.
Foliar Diseases - Usually caused by excessive moisture. Avoid overhead watering and try to open up more sunlight for your plants if at all possible.
Infected Corns - If you see a strange blue coloured corn cob that looks infected by some sort of strange fungus, that is Huitlacoche or Ustilago maydis. These can actually be eaten and are more valued than normal cobs in some places. Otherwise, you can just get rid of it!