Light requirements: Full sun for best yields.
Planting: Space 8 to 12 inches apart, depending on type. (Read the stick tag that comes with the plant for specific spacing recommendations.) Extend the harvest by setting out plants weekly for a month or more.
Soil requirements: Corn needs moist but well-drained, nutrient-rich soil. Amend soil with compost or other organic matter prior to planting. Soil pH should be 6.0 to 6.8. In coldest regions, warm soil with black plastic for one week prior to planting.
Water requirements: Fuel corn’s fast growth with consistently moist soil. Shallow roots make plants susceptible to drought. Mulch soil to reduce water evaporation, but wait until soil has warmed before covering it.
Frost-fighting plan: Corn can be damaged by light frost (28º F to 32º F). If a surprise late spring frost comes into the forecast, protect seedlings with a frost blanket.
Common issues: Watch for corn earworms, aphids, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, and cutworms. Use a barrier fence to deter deer and raccoons. Diseases to be on the lookout for include corn smut, leaf blight, and rust. In poorly draining soil, fungus diseases can attack seedlings. If gusty summer storms blow corn plants over, they will usually right themselves after a few days of sunny weather. If pollination is an issue (corn is primarily wind-pollinated), grow corn in blocks of short rows instead of one long one. Don’t plant different types of corn close enough to cross-pollinate or flavor can change.
Harvesting: Ripe ears feel full and rounded; silk should be dried and brown on the ends. If you’re unsure, poke a kernel with your fingernail. Corn is ready if sap is light and milky Clear liquid means the ear isn’t ready. Corn is sweetest in the early morning; pick ears first thing for best flavor. To harvest, hold the corn stalk with one hand; use the other to pull the ear down and away from the stalk, twisting until it breaks off.
Storage: Keep corn in the husk until cooking. Refrigerate harvested ears right away. While sweetness should last about a week, corn tastes best eaten as close to harvesting as possible.
For more information, visit the Corn page in our How to Grow section.