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How to Grow Great Sweet Corn in Your Home Garden

I’m so ready to share with you my tips for how to grow great sweet corn.

Some of my earliest memories have been in the garden with my dad planting to grow great sweet corn. Yummy, bicolor Peaches and Cream sweet corn would soon fill our tables and grills in the summer and freezers to enjoy during the winter.

Sweet corn ears and kernels are a delicious and popular addition to summer meals. The flavor and quality of freshly picked sweet corn is outstanding and addictive.

In this post, I will:

* Give you all of my tips and tricks to grow sweet corn at home.
* Share my gardening ideas as well as harvest and storage tips.

Are you ready to grow great sweet corn? Let’s dig in!

How to grow great sweet corn in your home garden

Varieties of Sweet Corn

The great thing about sweet corn varieties is that there’s a little something for everyone. New hybrid varieties of sweet corn are available but you can still plant the old heritage varieties as well.

You can plant different colors: Yellow, White and Bicolor.

Yellow ~ Merit, Miracle, Bodacious, Kandy Corn, Gold Cup.

Bicolor ~ Honey & Cream, Peaches & Cream, Carnival, Calico Belle, Candy Store

White ~ Snow Belle, Sugar Snow, Quick Silver

Note that new varieties will have some gene modification that will allow these varieties some resistance. Let’s talk about GMO’s a little bit.


GMO’s get a very bad wrap. The sad thing is that they are despised mainly by people who do not understand what they are and also people who do not grow vegetables and crops.

So, let’s talk about the GMO’s in sweet corn.

Different varieties of Sweet corn have become available with resistance to diseases including:

– Maize dwarf mosaic
– Smut
– Bacterial wilt

You can also purchase roundup ready sweet corn where you don’t have to deal with the weeds. For more information on GMO’s (the right information), Please visit the related posts below to find the right sources for all of this information.

Sweet Corn Vs. Field Corn?

Another question I get asked a lot is ‘How is sweet corn different from field corn?’ They are related.

Well, the difference comes down to one single genetic factor called the “sugary” or Su Gene. There are different Su genes, such as the SE or Sugary Extender gene, in different varieties making them sweeter or less sweet.

Did you realize the level of sweetness is controlled by genes? You can use this knowledge to pick a good variety for you. Let’s talk about planting that amazing sweet corn.

Planting Great Sweet Corn

The first thing to consider is that spacing is very important. Sweet corn doesn’t adapt well to small garden areas because closely spaced plants will produce only 1-2 ears. Plants should be planted 8-12 inches apart in rows at least 3 feet apart. Kernels should be planted one inch deep.

For proper pollination, plant corn in small blocks or several short rows rather than a single row. I’ll talk more about pollination in the next section.

Sweet corn is a warm season crop. Here in Kansas, we typically plant it in mid to late April. But, you know I’m a huge proponent of planting by soil temperature and not by any date. The right soil temperature for germination of sweet corn seed is 50 degrees F.

You can also plant numerous plantings over the course of the season for later crops, since the window to harvest sweet corn is 10 days. Before we calk about harvesting, let’s talk about caring for the sweet corn plants and watching them grow.

Plant Care

As your corn plants start popping up in rows, it will need regular watering and weed control. The roundup ready varieties will have much better weed control, obviously and you’ll have a very clean field with very little effort.

Also, keep in mind that sweet corn is a member of the grass family. That’s right ~ Sweet corn is a GRASS! Therefore, fertilizing with nitrogen is important. A side dress application of a strong Nitrogen fertilizer every 3-4 weeks is very ideal to grow great sweet corn.

Also, pollination is important for the growth and production of the ears. Proper pollination ensures the ears will fill out all the way with kernels, so you want this to happen. Wind transfers pollen from the tassel (male) to the ear (female). Notice that I said WIND – Bees do not have much to do with the pollination of sweet corn. Field corn and sweet corn will cross pollinate so if you don’t want that to happen, space them apart at least 40-50 feet.

Add water and weed if necessary.

Common Concerns of Sweet Corn Plants

Corn earworm – A nasty little worm that eats the kernels and makes a mess of ears. Purchase varieties that have the gene in them for earworm.

Smut – This is a nasty fungus caused by wet and hot weather. Purchase varieties that have the gene in them for smut resistance.

Harvesting Sweet Corn

When is sweet corn ready? Well, when it’s the perfect sweetness!

Sweet corn is ready for harvest when the juice in the kernel appears milky. You can simply squeeze the kernel with your finger and it should easily “pop” when ready.

Also, the ear should be well filled to the tip. This is determined by pollination, as I mentioned before. You can also check the silks. When mature, the silks will be completely dry or brown.

To pull ears away from the stalks, twist and pull the ear down sharply. If the ears are truly ready, they will come off easily.

How to Grow Great Sweet Corn in Your Home Garden

Best Ways to Use & Enjoy

Corn is actually a very good source of fiber, Vitamins and carotenoids. So, not only is it a tasty treat, but a healthy one!

Use corn immediately in recipes, or straight from the ear. Store the extra in a cold place right after harvest.

Preserving corn is also really easy to do. You can dehydrate it or pressure can it in jars for easy storage. Also, freezing corn is easy and quick. Check out my post about freezing sweet corn in the related post.

Some recipes we love to enjoy is corn casserole, grilled sweet corn and corn salsa.

Sweet Corn is the Best Summer Treat

It’s true. Sweet corn is not only a favorite of mine. My family AND my Farmers Market customers crave the sweet corn I bring to them.

And now, you can grow great sweet corn right where you are in your garden spot. I hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to share!


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