16. May 2020

Beginner's Guide to Growing Corn

So, you have your kernels and feel ready to start growing corn at home. But there might be a few things you need to know before you get going. Read my guide to learn more.

En bytta med torkad majs står över ett pluggbrätte. Growing corn, little dried kernels on top of a plug tray.

It's almost hard to imagine that this little kernel will turn into a tall corn plant with time. You can start harvesting at the end of summer if you sow in late spring! Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about growing corn at home.

 

Growing corn is such a joy! There's just something so special about harvesting lovely bright yellow corn cobs from your own garden. I always try to start the seeds in late spring so that I have a few plants ready when the soil gets warmer. This process starts in mid-May where I live, but this depends on how warm it is where you grow of course.

 

More content for beginners: Cucumber from sowing to harvest

 

Facts about corn

There are a few things you need to know if you want to grow your corn from seed. It's easier to just buy the plants of course.

Corn germinates in warm soil

If you plan on sowing corn, then you need to do it in a warm spot. The easiest way might just be to put your sowing in the greenhouse where you don't have to worry about getting enough light. Just make sure that it doesn't get too cold in there during the nights. You can always sow your corn indoors and then put the sowing in a window. Around 68-86 degrees (20-30 degrees Celsius) would be a preferable soil temperature.

 

Corn rots easily in cold soil

Corn should normally germinate in just a few days, or at least less than ten. But if the soil is very damp and cold then the corn kernels might start to rot.

 

Corn doesn't thrive in pots

Don't leave your corn in pots for too long. The plants can get quite unhealthy and even die if they stay in the pots too long. Some people swear by it, but I think that it's an unnecessary risk. That's why I try to transplant my corn plants as soon as possible.

 

Corn can be hard to transplant

Transplanting can be difficult at times though, because the root system is quite sensitive. If you plan on transplanting, then I would recommend growing the corn in plug trays or pots that you can open up. This way, you don't need to disturb the roots.

 

Närbild på nyskördade färska majskolvar. Growing corn, close-up of fresh corn cobs

This is what I'm looking forward to when I'm growing corn in spring. Every plant produces 1-2 cobs, so I always try to sow many little kernels in spring.

 

Growing corn – My tips

I grow corn each year, and I follow the same routine every time. You can use this method too if you want, and just adapt it to your particular circumstances. Corn takes long to develop and is generally sensitive to cold soil. That's why I always start my seeds indoors. Then I'm sure to have nice plants I can put outside later in summer.

  • sow your corn kernels in a plug tray or in empty toilet paper rolls, use one seed for each roll/cell
  • use regular soil, and not a seed-starting mix
  • do the sowing around 14 days before planting
  • put the sowing on a heat mat or in a warm greenhouse
  • make sure that the soil doesn't get too damp

Some sources say that you can start the seeds up to six weeks before planting. But just remember that when corn starts growing, it happens very fast. The plants are usually ready for transplanting in less than two weeks. If you wait longer than that, you get lots of extra work to do and you also take a bit of a risk. The plants tend to get quite sensitive after a while. Especially if we can't give them a perfect environment to grow in. After the corn is planted, it generally does a good job taking care of itself.

 

En hand håller en majsplanta. Growing corn, a hand holding a cob

I sowed this little corn plant around two weeks before planting it outside in my kitchen garden.

 

Three questions about growing corn

 

My corn doesn't grow, what's wrong?

Most likely, something is wrong with either the temperature or how damp/dry the soil is. Try to do the sowing again and put your batch in a warmer/cooler spot, and experiment with the watering too. The seeds germinate underneath the soil after all. So, a lot can be going on without our knowledge.

 

Can I grow several corn varieties in my garden?

You can, but I don't recommend it. If different varieties cross-pollinate, then you might not get the results you want at all. That's why I would stick to one variety at a time. The pollen can travel very far, so putting the varieties in different parts of the garden doesn't help.

 

My corn doesn't seem to develop properly, why?

Corn actually takes quite a long time to develop and ripen. You can always look for varieties that don't take as long (some might take a few weeks less than others), and of course start your seeds indoors before putting your plants in warm soil outdoors. Remember to choose a warm and sheltered spot of course. Corn likes warm summers, nutrient-rich soil and a steady supply of water.

 

More about corn: Freezing homegrown corn

 

Some of you might wonder if it's possible to direct-sow kernels in the soil outside. The answer is yes, you can. But it all depends on where you live of course. I live in zone 3 and the season is short, often with unpredictable weather too. So, adapt to your circumstances and try to give your corn what it needs. This is generally easier if you start your seeds indoors, in my opinion.

 

Learn more about corn

If you want to know more about corn, I recommend searching for corn in the search bar here on my blog. I have plenty of content about corn both here and on my YouTube channel Sara's Kitchen Garden. Check it out!

 

Good luck growing corn in your garden!
/Sara Bäckmo

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