Growing Sweet Corn at Home
A Real Treat

Growing sweet corn in the backyard is a real treat and worth the effort. The sweet corn varieties available now give us a wider choice in sweetness and flavor.

It is worth growing corn if you have the space, but even if space is limited, don’t let that stop you. Sweet corn can be planted in blocks in small spaces.

We grew ambrosia; a sugar enhanced bicolor sweet corn. It grows 6 to 8 feet tall and the ears are 8 inches. It is ready in about 75 days and freezes well.

I have grown corn for the last 3 years and have been surprised how much I have been able to put in the freezer using just a small part of my garden.

I wanted to be scientific about growing sweet corn last year and did a test plot by growing corn at the recommended spacing and distance to check my yields.

The 7th of June I planted five 20 foot rows of corn spaced 36 inches apart. I poked holes 2 inches deep and dropped in 3 kernels of corn in each hole spaced 12 inches apart.

The corn germinated in one week. I thinned the plants to one plant per 12 inches.

The spring was cool so the corn didn’t really take off until July. When the corn was about 2 feet tall I side dressed down the rows with nitrogen.

Than when the corn started to send up tassels I side dressed with another light sprinkling of ammonium sulfate. You could also use compost tea.

Aug. 27th the corn was ready to pick. We picked at least 2 large ears per stalk giving us about 168 ears of corn.

We ate corn on the cob for the next week and froze the rest yielding 51 pint bags of corn.

We were pleasantly surprised by our yield.

It is best to grow one corn variety at a time as cross pollination can change the flavor and sweetness of your corn.

Try different varieties each year and soon you’ll find your favorite.

Types of Sweet Corn:

Sweet corn has been modified from field corn to produce kernels with more sugar. The sugar in the kernels turns to starch quickly after picking. The new hybrids have higher sugar content that convert starch slower giving a longer time for storage.

The 3 main types all are available in yellow, while and bi color varieties:

    Standard Sweet corn does better in cool weather and is not as sweet as the other two, it loses its sweetness quickly after harvest. Varieties include: Silver Queen, and Seneca Horizon.

    Sugar Enhanced corn has higher sugar content and is tenderer than sweet corn. This corn stays sweet 3 to 4 days after harvest. Varieties include: Ambrosia and Kandy Korn

    Super Sweet corn has a higher sugar content than sugar enhanced corn. The sugar content holds for 3 to 7 days after harvest and is grown for wholesale shipping and fresh markets. This corn dose not do well in cold soils and should be planted when soil temperatures reach 60 degrees F. Varieties include: Candy Store and Candy Corner.

Soil preparation:

Growing sweet corn needs warm soil to thrive. Optimum soil temperatures are 60 degree F or higher. Any well drained soil is good for sweet corn. Sandy soils warm sooner in the spring so are good for earlier varieties.

Prepare your soil by tilling or forking 6 inches deep. Apply a good compost to enrich the soil. Corn grows quickly and uses lots of nitrogen. Plant your corn where beans were planted the year before. Rotate where you plant your corn to a different spot every three years to keep your soil fertile.


Plant sweet corn two to three weeks after the last frost date in your area. Direct sowing of seeds is best as corn grows fast and doesn’t like transplanting. Plant seeds 1 inch deep in the spring when the soil is cooler, 2 to 3 inches deep later in the year when soil is warmer.

    Rows; Space seeds 8 to 12 inches apart in rows with 24 to 36 inches between rows. In wide rows plant two rows 8 inches apart. Plant 2 to 3 seeds per hole and thin to best plant when the plants are 3 to 4 inches tall.

    Hills; mound hills for planting 18 inches in diameter with the hills spaced about 3 to 4 feet apart. Plant 6 to 8 seeds per hill 2 inches deep in a 9 inch circle around the mound.

    Blocks; plant corn in off set rows across the bed 12 inches apart.

Plant corn on the north side of your garden to keep from shading other plants. Weed carefully when corn is young. After corn reaches 12 inches you can begin hoeing the weeds. Mound soil up along the corn to bank and cover young weeds. Mulch between rows to keep the ground moist and weeds down.

Water corn regularly 1 to 2 inches per week. Growing sweet corn needs a boost of nitrogen when plants are12 inches tall. Side dress with compost tea, or commercial nitrogen. Give the growing sweet corn another dose of nitrogen when the silk appears.

The growing sweet corn is pollinated by the wind, so if your corn is planted in blocks pollination is better giving you full ears at harvest time.


The growing corn matures 17 to 23 days after pollination. The silks wither and turn dark brown. To check to see if ears are ripe pull open the top of the husk and check the kernels. They should be full and juicy.

Corn ripens quickly in the warm weather and should be check every few days as it starts to ripen. When the corn is ready, pull the ears down ward and they will snap off the stalk. Harvest over a couple of days.


Corn needs to be eaten within a few days of picking to enjoy the sweetness. Store the picked corn in the refrigerator in the husks. Extra corn is best if frozen.

Growing potatoes in the backyard can be fun and rewarding giving you potato varieties you can’t buy.

Growing artichokes is easier than you think. Even in the north you can grow these tender delicious vegetable.

Growing green beans in the backyard is easy and productive. Green beans are fairly drought tolerant and require little attention once established.