How to Grow Sweet Corn Organically: Lawn Fly

Team McFly Sep 02, 2023
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sweet corn

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Harvesting and Enjoying: Savoring the Fruits of Your Organic Corn

Sweet corn (Zea mays) requires certain environmental and cultural conditions to produce high-yield crops, including warm soils, close spacing, and nitrogen fertilization.

Double Red Corn

Try Double Red corn this year - its richly-flavored purple kernels and almost black-purple color make for a delectable treat, plus its resistance to Stewart's Wilt and Northern Corn Leaf Blight makes this strain ideal. Double red corn, a captivating and unique variety, boasts vibrant, ruby-red kernels that stand out in any garden.

This extraordinary maize variety inherits its striking coloration from both its husk and kernels, creating a visually appealing spectacle. Double red corn isn't just a feast for the eyes; it also offers a deliciously sweet flavor that's perfect for roasting, grilling, or adding a splash of color to culinary creations. Whether you're a gardening enthusiast or a culinary explorer, cultivating double red corn can add a delightful twist to your garden and your plate, making it a must-try addition for those seeking a touch of novelty and flavor.


Sweet corn requires an extended growing season to reach its full potential and is susceptible to weather extremes. When cultivating your sweet corn in a garden, raised bed, or container environment, ensure it receives adequate moisture and nutrient support throughout its life cycle to prevent drought conditions from developing.

Consistent, adequate watering from seed germination through silking until its kernels fill your ear is particularly important; you may even require supplementing natural rainfall with irrigation to achieve that result.

Compost should be used when planting corn to give its seeds rich nutrients to jump-start their growth. As corn is a heavy feeder, its nitrogen can quickly deplete from soil levels; to replenish it regularly, use an ammonium sulfate fertilizer.

For optimal success in cultivating large, healthy crops of corn, plant it in blocks or short rows for even pollination. Corn is unlike most vegetables as its pollination depends on wind pollination rather than insects for pollination; to make sure each ear receives sufficient pollination, plant different varieties every 2-3 weeks during the gardening season.

Ideal sweet corn planting should occur two weeks after your last frost date; in heavy, clay soil, it is better to start seedlings indoors before transplanting to your garden rather than sowing directly in cold ground.

Before planting corn seeds in your garden soil, enrich it with a light layer of organic compost made of manures and organic matter and general vegetable food such as 10-10-10. Conduct a soil test before sowing your seedlings, as the pH level should fall between 6.0-7.0; take note of its results! Corn plants require plenty of nitrogen-rich nutrients such as cottonseed meal or blood meal for side dressing when plants reach one foot tall and again when their tassels start growing.


Black Mulch

Sweet corn is a heavy feeder, so ensure your soil contains plenty of organic matter before planting it. Amend with well-rotted manure or compost (ideally during fall planting).

When planting corn seeds, use a hoe to dig trenches approximately 1 inch deep. Spread corn seeds evenly along every 8-inch row before covering them with coarse mulch.

Coarse garden mulches such as wood chips, bark products, shredded hedge trimmings, pine needles, and partially finished coarse compost are ideal. A layer of mulch should at least reach the height of a mature corn plant's rootball; renew in early winter to keep its thickness between 2-4 inches.

A thick layer of mulch helps prevent grassy weeds and protect tender corn plants from frost while also helping retain moisture in the soil and warming it more slowly. This is especially useful in cooler soils where corn plants may become finicky.

Watering corn regularly is essential to its success. If the soil dries out too quickly, corn growth will slow, and smaller ears may result. Keep the soil damp without overwatering, as too much moisture could lead to fungal diseases in corn plants.

Sweet corn plants usually take 60-90 days from seeding to maturity, depending on the variety. Choose an early variety if your season is short; otherwise, choose late varieties for longer growing seasons.

Early varieties tend to produce smaller and less sweet kernels than later types; also keep in mind the sugar content of kernels - shrunken (sh2) and supersweet varieties have two to three times more sugar content than standard sweet corn varieties. Still, transplant poorly as opposed to their counterparts.

To increase pollination of your sweet corn crop, plant it in hills of six to eight plants rather than rows. Corn pollination occurs most easily when adjacent tassels touch, encouraging full ears and big harvests from smaller plantings. To promote large harvests from smaller plots, regularly gather and apply dusty pollen from each tassel onto nearby silks several times daily.


Corn is pollinated via windblown pollen from male flowers (tassels) at the top of each plant to the female flowers or silks that emerge on each ear of corn, with each silk needing to be pollinated for kernel development. Although the process seems simple enough, its complexity lies within various conditions such as hot weather, dry soil conditions, low moisture levels, disease outbreaks, diseased crops, or poor air circulation around plants - and many factors come into play during pollination.

One of the main factors why some ears of sweet corn fail to produce a full set of kernels is inadequate pollination. Tassels shed yellow pollen, carried downwind to fertilize each silk on every ear of corn for fertilization purposes - and it takes approximately 50 days before this process starts!

Silks play an essential role in pollen retention; their primary task is intercepting and holding onto pollen grains that come off of pollinated flowers or are windblown onto them from nearby flowers. When pollen does stick to silks, however, it must then be "germinated," so it becomes a fertilized ear of corn kernels; the number of fertilized kernels per ear of corn depends on this step being successful.

As soon as the husks of an ear of corn start turning brown, it is ready for harvesting. To tell whether an ear has been successfully pollinated by simply pulling back its husk and inspecting its kernels. These should be firm when squeezed gently, while their husk should yield milky fluid.

Some gardeners take hand pollination one step further by carefully cutting and shaking each ear of corn until they're sure it has been properly pollinated. Although this method may not be practical for home gardeners with smaller plots, it can help ensure every harvested ear of corn contains fertilized kernels.

harvest corn


After some experience and experimentation, you will develop an instinct for knowing when corn is ready. Harvest time begins when silks turn a light brown hue, and kernels feel firm to the touch - you can test for readiness by pulling back its husk and pressing your fingernail into one kernel - it should squirt milky juice if ready! Not only is corn a delectable vegetable but it is also packed with vitamin C and fiber.

Sweet corn requires a full growing season. Seeds should be planted into warm, fertile soil in late spring or early summer, depending on your climate; earlier varieties that mature before frost arrives in fall are advised in colder areas. Cover the ground with black plastic sheeting before planting to accelerate soil warming and extend the harvest season.

To ensure a prosperous harvest, select a site with ample drainage that's not susceptible to flooding. Add organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure as part of your soil amendment program to improve soil tilth and water-holding capacity.

Most organic growers utilize cover crops such as rye with hairy vetch or crimson clover to increase nitrogen levels in the soil and act as natural pest deterrents while providing over 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre!

Corn plants become vulnerable to disease and rot when the soil dries out, so make sure you water regularly and deeply to avoid this happening. Remember that corn does not tolerate transplanting well, so sow your seeds directly in the garden after your last frost date to ensure optimal success.

To protect corn from insects and diseases, mulch with organic material or use an insecticide designed specifically for vegetables. Deer and raccoons are two major threats to sweet corn as it ripens; to deter them, install deer-raccoon fences around your garden. You could also protect it with tarpaulin row covers as a protective measure and apply frequent applications of fungicides.

In conclusion, growing sweet corn organically benefits your health and contributes to a sustainable and eco-friendly approach to gardening. Following the steps outlined in this article, you can cultivate delicious, pesticide-free sweet corn right in your backyard. Remember to prioritize soil health, provide adequate water and sunlight, practice companion planting, and manage pests naturally. Embrace the joy of organic gardening and savor the satisfaction of harvesting your flavorful, homegrown sweet corn. Happy growing!

Don't Forget The Butter, Salt, and Pepper!

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Disclosure:  Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.