Planting Corn

by - April 21, 2010


Growing up, corn was always at the dinner table in the summers. Mom and dad swore on the superiority of Silver Queen and I remember mom pulling back the husks to check the ears before buying them. There were several roadside stands on the way to our house, so getting corn was never a problem. We almost never had canned or frozen corn growing up, which is why for me, corn is a delicacy of the summer. Dad grew it for a couple summers and we really enjoyed picking what the crows didn’t beat us to.

For whatever reason, I’ve grown out of practice in buttering and munching an ear of corn, but I hope to remedy that this summer. Earlier this month I planted my own crop, taking a stab at spacing from online tips. I planted 7 18-24” wide rows with plants spaced 10” in a trapezoidal block (this was in the ground, not the boxes). The block is 3’ wide on the top and 8’ wide on the bottom. This equated to about 45 plants in 60 square feet or garden space or 1.3 square feet per stalk.

There are several recommendations I’ve come across for spacing corn:

  • Dad planted Hickory Cane 10” – 12” apart with rows wide enough to walk between. He said he learned to plant two per hole and thin to one only once the plants were big enough to not be snipped off by the crows.
  • NC Cooperative Extension Horticultural Agent Mark says corn is usually thinned to 9-12” inches between plants when done in 30” rows and encourages people to plant pole beans with the corn. This equates to about 2 sq ft per stalk, to be shared with beans.
  • Larry Bass of NCSU has a good article on home gardening that discusses the entire process from soil prep to harvesting. His corn spacing recommendations are similar to Mark’s, 12” between plants, in single rows (width unspecified).
  • Square Foot Gardeners claim that 1 square foot is adequate to grow 4 stalks. I expect that square foot gardeners accomplish much tighter spacing through a richly amended soil mix and easy access due to limiting the width of garden boxes. GardenWeb forum members have had luck with planting squash and pole beans together with corn at various spacings (most folks were talking up square foot gardening methods and the Native American Indian companion planting methods).
  • Several sources recommended home gardeners plant in blocks rather than a couple long rows since corn is wind pollinated.
What’s the deal with the pole beans, you ask? Corn has high nitrogen demands and pole beans demand something to climb. Coincidentally, pole beans return nitrogen to the soil and corn acts as a sturdy trellis. It’s a win-win situation. I planted pole beans yesterday. I dug a small hole 1” from each two week old corn plant and dropped in two beans. Since my spacing was a little tighter than recommended for row planting, Mark advised me to watch for yellow leaves on the stalks and to supplement with compost or fertilizer.

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2 comments

  1. See all those weeds? Those are tomato sprouts. I composted all the tomatoes that were attacked by squirrels and bird or just weren't up to par and now they are everywhere I spread my compost. Word to the wise, be careful when you compost tomatoes :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love silver queen corn! That's what my husband plants every year. He's a hobby-farmer and plants a few acres of it. It is so yummy come summer!

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