Sweet Corn: How to Grow this Survival Food? [Complete Guide]

Sweet corn is a valuable survival food, as it’s a nutrient-rich, calorie-dense food. It’s easy to grow and can be ready for harvest in only 2 months. The kernels can be dried for long-term storage.

Sweet corn requires well-drained soil, plenty of sun, and consistent moisture. The main challenge is preventing pests and ensuring proper pollination for full cobs. Even a beginner gardener can achieve exceptional harvest by following our 22 tips.

Why is Sweet Corn a Survival Food?

Sweet corn is considered a survival food due to its versatility, nutritional value, and ease of cultivation.

As a staple crop, sweet corn can be grown in various climates and soils, making it a reliable source of sustenance during times of food scarcity.

Its high yield per acre and relatively short growing season mean that sweet corn can provide a steady supply of food in a relatively short amount of time, which is crucial in survival scenarios where time and resources are limited.

Great Nutritional Value

Nutritionally, sweet corn is a powerhouse. It is rich in carbs, which provide a quick and efficient source of energy, essential for maintaining stamina and endurance in survival situations.

Additionally, sweet corn contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium, which support overall health and bodily functions.

The fiber content in sweet corn aids digestion and helps maintain a feeling of fullness, which is particularly important when food supplies are constrained.

Versatility

Another reason sweet corn is valued as a survival food is its versatility in preparation and consumption. It can be eaten raw, cooked, dried, or ground into flour, allowing for a wide range of culinary uses. This adaptability means that sweet corn can be used to prepare different types of meals, reducing the monotony of a limited diet and providing essential nutrients in various forms.

No Refrigeration Needed

Moreover, dried corn kernels can be stored for long periods without refrigeration, making it an ideal food to keep in emergency reserves.

How Many Calories per Square Foot a Year?

On average, you can expect to grow one to two ears of sweet corn per plant. A common planting density for sweet corn is about one plant per square foot.

Typically, each sweet corn plant produces one to two ears of corn.

One medium-sized ear of sweet corn (approximately 90–100 grams) contains around 90 calories.

Assuming optimal growing conditions and average yields: Calories per plant=1.5 ears×90 calories/ear=135 calories.

Assuming two growing cycles per year (in regions with a longer growing season), you’ll get 270 calories per year per square foot (135 calories×2).

This is just an estimate. The actual calorie output can be higher or lower depending on specific growing conditions, plant varieties, and agricultural practices.[1,2]

Are other parts of the plant Edible?

The only truly edible parts of sweet corn are the kernels on the cob. However, very young corn shoots, before they become too fibrous, are used in some Asian cuisines. They are typically stir-fried or used in soups.

Can Sweet Corn be Poisonous?

Sweet corn, when grown, harvested, and prepared properly, is not poisonous or toxic. It is a widely consumed vegetable and is generally safe for most people. However, there are some considerations and potential risks to be aware of.

One concern is the presence of contaminants and pesticides. If sweet corn is not organically grown, it may contain pesticide residues. Washing and peeling the corn can reduce some of these residues, but choosing organically-grown corn is a safer option if you are concerned about pesticide exposure.

Additionally, sweet corn can be contaminated with bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella if not handled properly. Proper washing and cooking can mitigate this risk, ensuring that the corn is safe to eat.

I wash all my groceries with this cheap homemade water solution just to be safe.

Molds and mycotoxins are another potential issue. If sweet corn is improperly stored and becomes moldy, it can develop mycotoxins, which are toxic substances produced by fungi. It is crucial to store corn in a cool, dry place and discard any moldy corn to avoid these toxins.

While rare, some individuals may have an allergic reaction to corn. Symptoms of a corn allergy can include hives, itching, swelling, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis. If you have a known allergy to corn, it is important to avoid it and seek alternatives.

Additionally, some people have concerns about the safety of genetically modified (GMO) corn. Although the majority of scientific studies indicate that GMO corn is safe to eat, some individuals prefer to avoid GMOs due to potential long-term health and environmental concerns. Choosing non-GMO or organic sweet corn can address these concerns.

Step-by-Step Guide to Growing Organic Sweet CornPin

Can I eat Raw Corn?

Consuming raw sweet corn is generally safe, but some people may experience digestive discomfort or an upset stomach. Cooking sweet corn can make it easier to digest and reduce the risk of any mild adverse effects.

Sweet corn is high in fiber, which is beneficial for digestion, but consuming too much corn can lead to digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and stomach cramps, especially for those with sensitive digestive systems.

In any case, sweet corn is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat every day for good health and weight loss! It’s a myth that sweet corn makes you fat.

Is Sweet Corn an Easy Plant to Grow?

Sweet corn is generally considered an easy plant to grow, especially for gardeners with some experience.

Sweet corn thrives in warm weather and is typically planted after the last frost in spring.

It requires full sunlight, making it suitable for sunny gardens.

Sweet corn prefers well-drained, fertile soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. Adding compost or aged manure can improve soil fertility and structure, enhancing growth.

Corn is usually planted directly into the ground rather than started indoors and transplanted. This simplifies the process.

Sweet corn seeds are planted about 1 to 1.5 inches deep and 8 to 12 inches apart in rows that are 24 to 36 inches apart. Proper spacing is essential for good pollination and healthy growth. Corn is wind-pollinated, so planting it in blocks rather than single rows can enhance pollination success. This arrangement helps ensure that the plants pollinate each other effectively, leading to well-filled ears.

Corn requires consistent moisture, especially during the germination period and when the ears are forming. However, it is not overly sensitive to water levels, making it relatively forgiving as long as it receives regular watering.

Keeping the corn patch weed-free is crucial during the early stages of growth. Mulching can help suppress weeds and retain soil moisture.

While corn can be affected by pests like corn borers and diseases like rust, many modern varieties are bred for resistance, making them easier to manage.

How Many Days to Grow Sweet Corn?

Sweet corn is typically ready to harvest about 60 to 100 days after planting, depending on the variety. Harvesting is straightforward—simply pick the ears when the kernels are plump and milky.

Early Varieties: These types of sweet corn mature quickly, usually within 60 to 70 days. They are ideal for gardeners who have a shorter growing season or who want to enjoy fresh corn early in the summer.

  • Early Sunglow: Known for its fast maturity and sweetness, ideal for short growing seasons.
  • Golden Bantam: A historic variety, popular for its robust flavor and early harvest.
  • Peaches and Cream: A bi-color variety that matures quickly and offers a sweet taste.
  • Sugar Pearl: A white sweet corn that matures early and has a tender texture.

Mid-Season Varieties: These require a bit more time, typically maturing in 70 to 85 days. They are a good middle-ground option, providing a balance between early and late harvests.

  • Ambrosia: A bi-color corn known for its creamy texture and sweet flavor, maturing mid-season.
  • Bodacious: A yellow variety prized for its large ears and sweet, tender kernels.
  • Kandy Korn: Offers a long harvest period with a sweet flavor, maturing in mid-season.
  • Silver Queen: A classic white sweet corn with a high sugar content, ideal for mid-season harvest.

Late Varieties: These take the longest to mature, usually between 85 and 100 days. They are suited for areas with longer growing seasons and can extend the corn harvest into late summer or early fall.

  • Golden Jubilee: Known for its rich, sweet flavor and large ears, maturing later in the season.
  • Country Gentleman: An heirloom variety with a unique shoepeg kernel arrangement, maturing late.
  • Stowell’s Evergreen: A late-maturing white corn that stays tender and sweet even after picking.
  • Incredible: A yellow sweet corn that matures late and is known for its large, flavorful ears.
Variety TypeExamples
HeirloomGolden Bantam, Country Gentleman, Stowell’s Evergreen
HybridEarly Sunglow, Peaches and Cream, Sugar Pearl, Ambrosia,
Bodacious, Kandy Korn, Silver Queen, Golden Jubilee, Incredible
Common Sweet Corn Varieties, ideal for amateur gardeners.

All these varieties are non-GMO. GMO varieties are typically found in commercial varieties and will be labeled accordingly.

Growing Stages

Corn seeds germinate within 7 to 10 days after planting, depending on soil temperature and moisture levels.

After germination, the corn plants enter a phase of rapid vegetative growth, which lasts several weeks. During this time, the plants develop their leaves and stalks.

About 50 to 70 days after planting, the corn plants begin to tassel. The tassels produce pollen, which is necessary for fertilizing the silks on the ears of corn. Pollination occurs over a period of several days.

After pollination, the ears of corn begin to develop and mature. This stage can take 20 to 30 days.

Corn is ready to harvest when the kernels are plump and milky. This typically occurs 18 to 24 days after pollination, depending on the variety and growing conditions.

Corn grows best in warm weather. Cool temperatures can slow down growth, while consistently hot temperatures can speed up the process. Poor soil and irregular watering can also delay development.

How to Cultivate Sweet Corn for Your Survival Garden?Pin

Which Variety is Easier to Grow?

For amateur gardeners, some sweet corn varieties are generally easier to grow due to their adaptability, disease resistance, and relatively straightforward cultivation requirements.

Golden Bantam: This heirloom variety is known for its reliability and delicious flavor. It’s relatively easy to grow and has been a favorite among home gardeners for many years.

Early Sunglow: A hybrid variety that matures early, hence its name. It’s prized for its sweet flavor, tenderness, and good disease resistance, making it suitable for beginner gardeners.

Peaches and Cream: Another popular hybrid variety known for its bi-colored kernels (yellow and white), sweet taste, and good disease resistance. It matures relatively early and is forgiving of less-than-perfect growing conditions.

Silver Queen: This variety is well-loved for its exceptionally sweet flavor and tender kernels. It’s a late-season variety but is worth the wait for its flavor and versatility in culinary uses.

These varieties are chosen not only for their taste but also for their adaptability to different growing conditions and their resistance to common pests and diseases. They are typically more forgiving for beginners.

Popcorn vs Sweet Corn

Popcorn is a type of corn, but it is not typically considered a variety of sweet corn.

Popcorn is a type of corn with a hard, moisture-sealed hull that surrounds the kernel, and it is harvested when the kernels are fully mature. On the other hand, sweet corn is specifically bred to be high in sugar content and is harvested when the kernels are immature and still tender.

You can grow popcorn as an amateur gardener, but it may present a few challenges compared to growing sweet corn.

Popcorn requires similar growing conditions to sweet corn, including full sun, well-drained soil, and adequate water. However, it tends to have a longer growing season compared to many sweet corn varieties. There are specific popcorn varieties suited for home gardens, such as ‘Robust 997B’ or ‘Tom Thumb’, which are adapted to shorter growing seasons and smaller garden spaces.

Popcorn is a type of corn that relies on wind pollination. Hence, for successful kernel development, it’s beneficial to plant popcorn in blocks rather than in single rows to enhance pollination.

Popcorn is harvested when the kernels are fully mature and hard. Unlike sweet corn, which is harvested in its milk stage when kernels are tender and juicy, popcorn kernels need to dry on the cob thoroughly to achieve the right moisture content for popping.

Popcorn can be susceptible to similar pests and diseases as sweet corn, such as corn earworms, aphids, and fungal diseases. Regular monitoring and appropriate pest management practices are necessary.

How to Grow Sweet Corn?

From Seeds or Seedlings?

Growing sweet corn can be approached either from seeds or seedlings, each method offering its own set of advantages and considerations.

Seeds

Starting from seeds is often preferred for its cost-effectiveness and the wider variety of cultivars available. It allows gardeners to select specific types of sweet corn that suit their preferences in terms of taste, size, and maturity period. Additionally, growing from seeds gives complete control over the entire growth process, from germination to maturity.

However, planting sweet corn from seeds requires careful timing and attention to weather conditions. Seeds are sensitive to soil temperature and moisture levels, and planting too early in cold or wet soil can lead to poor germination rates.

Moreover, direct seeding means that young seedlings are more vulnerable to weed competition until they establish themselves, necessitating diligent weeding practices to ensure optimal growth.

Most home gardeners tend to grow sweet corn from seeds rather than seedlings.

Tips for Buying the Best Sweet Corn Seeds

Tips for Buying the Best and Healthiest Sweet Corn Seeds

Seed Quality: Look for seeds with a high germination rate, often indicated on the packet. A rate above 90% is ideal.

Certifications: Choose seeds that are certified organic or non-GMO for chemical-free gardening.

Climate Suitability: Select a variety that suits your local climate and growing season length.

Type of Corn: Decide whether you want standard sweet corn, super-sweet, or sugar-enhanced varieties based on your taste preference.

Disease-Resistant Varieties: Opt for seeds that are bred to resist common corn diseases like rust, blight, and smut. This information is usually on the seed packet or provided by the seller.

Seed Freshness: Check the seed packet for the expiration date to ensure the seeds are fresh. Older seeds may have lower germination rates.

Storage Conditions: Ensure the seeds have been stored in cool, dry conditions to maintain their viability.

Trusted Suppliers: Purchase from reputable seed companies known for high-quality products and good customer service.

Reviews and Ratings: Read reviews and ratings from other gardeners to get an idea of the performance of the seeds.

Treated vs. Untreated: Decide if you want treated seeds, which are coated with fungicides and insecticides to protect against pests and diseases, or untreated seeds, which are more natural but may require more careful handling.

Proper Labeling: Ensure the seed packet is properly labeled with all necessary information, including variety name, planting instructions, and company contact details.

Sealed Packaging: Check that the packaging is sealed properly to prevent moisture from affecting the seeds.

Seedlings

On the other hand, growing sweet corn from seedlings offers certain conveniences and benefits.

Seedlings are already established plants when purchased from nurseries or started indoors, which means they have a head start in the growing season. This can result in earlier harvests compared to seeds, saving time and potentially extending the growing season in cooler climates.

One of the primary advantages of using seedlings is their higher survival rate and reduced sensitivity to adverse weather conditions during early growth stages. They are less prone to failures in germination and stand a better chance against factors like cold snaps or heavy rains that could harm newly germinated seeds.

Additionally, planting seedlings in a well-prepared garden bed or container with nutrient-rich soil reduces the initial competition from weeds, allowing the plants to establish themselves more quickly and efficiently.

However, growing sweet corn from seedlings does come with its drawbacks. It typically involves higher upfront costs compared to seeds, especially if purchasing a large quantity from a nursery.

Furthermore, the selection of sweet corn varieties may be more limited compared to seeds, depending on what is available locally or through suppliers. Careful handling during transplanting is crucial to minimize transplant shock, which can affect growth and overall yield if not managed properly.

The availability of sweet corn seedlings in nurseries and garden centers can vary widely depending on the region. In areas with shorter growing seasons or where gardening is a more casual hobby, nurseries might stock sweet corn seedlings to cater to gardeners who prefer a head start.

Tips for Buying the Healthiest Sweet Corn Seedlings

Seedlings that look uniform in size and health are often better choices, as they indicate consistent care and quality.

Strong Stems: Look for seedlings with thick, sturdy stems. Weak or thin stems can indicate poor growth and health.

Healthy Leaves: The leaves should be green and free from yellowing, spots, or holes, which can be signs of nutrient deficiencies or pest problems.

Disease and Pest-Free: Avoid seedlings with visible signs of disease, such as wilting, mold, or mildew. Check for pests like aphids or caterpillars.

Healthy Roots: If possible, gently check the roots. They should be white or light brown and well-developed without being root-bound or mushy.

Growth Stage: Choose seedlings that are not too small or too large. Ideally, they should be a few inches tall and have a few sets of true leaves.

Transplant Readiness: Seedlings should be hardened off (gradually acclimated to outdoor conditions) and ready for transplanting.

Source and Variety: Buy from a trusted nursery or garden center known for healthy plants.

Variety: Ensure the seedlings are a variety suited to your climate and growing conditions. Check for disease-resistant varieties if available.

Healthy Soil: The soil in the pots should be moist but not waterlogged, indicating good watering practices and healthy root conditions.

Pot Size: Seedlings should be in appropriately sized pots for their stage of growth, indicating they haven’t been in the pots for too long.

Tips for Growing your Own Seedlings

Growing your own sweet corn seedlings is a rewarding experience. Here are some tips to ensure strong, healthy seedlings ready for transplanting to the field:

Soil Type: Sweet corn prefers a well-draining, fertile soil with a slightly acidic pH (around 6.0-6.8). You can use a good-quality potting mix specifically formulated for seedlings. If mixing your own, combine garden soil, compost, and sand in equal parts for good drainage and aeration.

Watering: Seeds need consistent moisture to germinate, but avoid soggy soil that can lead to rot. Water regularly, allowing the top inch of soil to dry slightly between waterings. Use a mister or watering can with a gentle spray to avoid disturbing the seeds.

Germination: Sweet corn germinates best in warm soil, ideally between 60-85°F (15-29°C). Sow seeds indoors 2-4 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Plant seeds 1-1.5 inches deep in individual pots or a seed tray. Maintain consistent moisture and warmth until germination, which typically takes 5-10 days. Provide adequate light once seedlings emerge. Aim for 14-16 hours of bright light daily.

Pot Size: A pot with a diameter of 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) is considered ideal for most sweet corn seedlings. This size allows for better root development and reduces the risk of root-bound issues before transplanting outdoors. Deeper pots (around 6 inches) are even better, especially if you plan to keep the seedlings indoors for a longer period. If you’re short on space, you can technically sow 2-3 sweet corn seeds in a 4-inch pot. However, be prepared to thin them to the strongest seedling once they reach a few inches tall. You can use all types of materials for your pots, depending on your gardening style and needs.

Pruning (not applicable): Sweet corn doesn’t require pruning in the seedling stage. However, once transplanted to the field, you can remove any suckers (shoots growing from the base of the plant) if desired. These divert energy from cob development.

Timing: As mentioned above, start your seeds indoors 2-4 weeks before the last frost date. Transplant seedlings outdoors only after all danger of frost has passed and soil temperature reaches at least 60°F (15°C).

Weather: Sweet corn thrives in warm, sunny weather. Protect seedlings from frost and harsh winds while they are young. Be prepared to provide temporary shade during excessively hot days if necessary.

Greenhouse (optional): A greenhouse can provide ideal conditions for starting sweet corn seedlings. It allows for better control of temperature, light, and moisture. However, it’s not essential for success. You can also use a sunny windowsill indoors or a cold frame outdoors (depending on your climate) for germination and early growth. [BUY HERE]

Harden off seedlings gradually before transplanting them outdoors. This means exposing them to outdoor conditions for increasing periods of time over several days. Once transplanted, space sweet corn plants according to the recommended spacing on the seed packet. This allows for proper air circulation and optimal growth.

Tips for Sowing Seeds or Planting Seedlings in the Field

Before Planting

Test your soil pH and amend it if necessary to create a suitable environment for your plants. Most vegetables prefer a slightly acidic pH (around 6.0-6.8).

Remove weeds, debris, and large rocks from the planting area. Loosen the soil to a good depth (8-12 inches) to allow for root growth and drainage.

Planting Seeds

Sow seeds at the proper depth. Refer to the information on the seed packet for the recommended planting depth. Generally, seeds should be planted 2-3 times their diameter deep. Seed packets will also provide recommendations for spacing between plants. This is crucial to ensure proper air circulation and prevent overcrowding that can stunt growth.

After sowing seeds, water the planting area thoroughly but gently to avoid disturbing the seeds.

Planting Seedlings

Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball. The hole should allow the roots to spread comfortably without being cramped. Don’t bury the stem any deeper than it was growing in the pot. The base of the stem, where it meets the roots, should be at the soil level.

Handle seedlings with care. Hold the seedling by the base of the stem, not the leaves.

Fill the hole with soil and gently press it down to remove air pockets and support the seedling. Water the planting area deeply to soak the root ball and surrounding soil.

Neither new sweet corn seeds nor seedlings necessarily need cover like a plastic dome or cloche. Only if there’s a risk of frost after transplanting seedlings outdoors, you might need to use temporary covers like row covers for short periods to protect young plants.

After Planting

Water regularly: Newly planted seeds and seedlings need consistent moisture to establish their roots. However, avoid overwatering, which can lead to rot.

Mulch around the plants: Applying a layer of mulch around the base of your plants helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.

Thin seedlings (if necessary): If you sowed seeds too close together, you’ll need to thin them once they reach a certain size.

Fertilize: Depending on your soil quality and chosen plants, you might need to fertilize throughout the growing season to provide essential nutrients.

Monitor for pests and diseases: Keep an eye out for common pests and diseases that might affect your plants. Take appropriate action to control them organically whenever possible.

Can I Grow Sweet Corn in Containers?

You absolutely can grow sweet corn in pots! While it’s more commonly grown in a field setting, container gardening offers a viable option for those with limited space or who simply enjoy the convenience.

Choosing the Right Container

Sweet corn has a bushy growth habit but can reach up to 6-8 feet tall. To accommodate this, choose a pot that’s at least 12 inches (30.5 cm) deep and wide. Ideally, go even bigger (16-18 inches deep and wide) for better root development and stability.

Also, ensure the pot has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging, which can harm the roots.

You’ll find heavy duty pots for plants on Amazon.

Soil

Use a high-quality potting mix specifically formulated for vegetables. It should be well-draining and fertile.

Plant 2-3 seeds per pot, then thin to the strongest seedling once they reach a few inches tall. Space them according to the recommended spacing on the seed packet (usually around 8-12 inches apart).

Care and Maintenance

Sweet corn thrives in full sun, so place your pot in a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Water regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Allow the top inch of soil to dry slightly between waterings. Pots are more prone to drying out than in-ground plants, so be vigilant with watering, especially during hot weather.

Apply a balanced fertilizer every few weeks during the growing season, following the instructions on the fertilizer product.

For taller sweet corn varieties, staking or providing some form of support might be helpful to prevent wind damage. Tall corn plants in pots can be susceptible to wind damage. Choose a sheltered location or provide support if needed.

Sweet corn is wind-pollinated. If you’re only growing a few plants in pots, you can help with pollination by gently shaking the plants every few days to disperse pollen.

Container-grown corn will likely produce fewer cobs compared to field-grown plants due to limited space for root development.

What type of Soil is the Most Suitable?

The best soil for sweet corn cultivation is well-drained, fertile, and slightly acidic. Here’s a breakdown of the key characteristics:

Sweet corn doesn’t tolerate soggy conditions. Well-draining soil allows excess water to drain away, preventing root rot and other problems.

Sweet corn is a heavy feeder, meaning it requires a good amount of nutrients for optimal growth and cob development. Look for a soil mix or amend your existing soil to ensure it’s rich in essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Choose a mix specifically formulated for vegetables, ensuring it’s well-draining and fertile.

Create a raised bed with a mixture of topsoil, compost, and aged manure (if available). Aim for a good balance between drainage and moisture retention.

Mulching around the base of your sweet corn plants helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.

Sweet corn prefers a soil pH in the range of 6.0-6.8 (slightly acidic). You can test your soil pH using a home testing kit or through your local agricultural extension service. If your soil is too alkaline (high pH), you can amend it with organic matter like compost or peat moss to lower the pH level.

Rotate your crops each year. This helps prevent nutrient depletion and buildup of soilborne diseases.

How much Water?

Sweet corn is a thirsty crop, requiring consistent moisture throughout its growing season for optimal development.

As sweet corn develops tassels (male flowers) and silks (female flowers), it requires the most water. Aim to keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. This is when the cobs begin to fill out, and inadequate water can lead to smaller, drier kernels.

As the cobs mature, water needs decrease slightly. However, don’t let the plants dry out completely. Continue to water regularly, especially during hot weather. Larger, more mature plants naturally transpire more water and will need more frequent watering.

Signs of Water Stress

Wilting leaves: This is the most common sign of underwatering. The leaves will droop and lose their color.

Dry soil: If the top few inches of soil feel dry to the touch, it’s time to water.

Stunted growth: Underwatered plants will exhibit slower growth and may produce smaller cobs.

Tips for Proper Watering

Water deeply: Aim to soak the root zone thoroughly rather than frequent shallow watering. This encourages deep-root development.

Water early in the morning: This allows the soil to absorb moisture before the day’s heat, minimizing evaporation.

Use a watering can or soaker hose: This directs water to the base of the plant rather than wasting it on leaves.

A layer of mulch helps retain moisture in the soil and reduces evaporation.

How much Sunlight?

Sweet corn thrives under sunny conditions and requires a good amount of sunlight for optimal growth and cob development.

Sweet corn is classified as a full-sun vegetable. This means it needs at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day for proper development.

If your sweet corn receives less than the ideal amount of sunlight, it can lead to several issues. Plants might become weak, spindly and more vulnerable to diseases. Cobs may be smaller, have fewer kernels, or the kernels might not mature fully.

Avoid planting corn near tall trees, buildings, or other structures that might cast shade on the plants during peak sunlight hours. However, in very hot climates, some afternoon shade might be beneficial during the hottest part of the day to prevent stress on the plants. You can use shade cloths temporarily during these times.

Does it need Pruning?

Sweet corn itself doesn’t require any traditional pruning in the sense of cutting off leaves or stems to promote growth.

However, sweet corn plants sometimes develop shoots from the base of the stalk, called suckers or tillers. These suckers can divert energy and nutrients away from cob development, potentially leading to smaller or less developed cobs.

Removing suckers is a personal choice. If you have a limited number of sweet corn plants, removing suckers can help concentrate the plant’s energy on producing larger, better-filled cobs on the main stalk while in densely planted cornfields, removing suckers can improve air circulation around the base of the plants, reducing the risk of fungal diseases.

How to Remove Suckers (if desired):

  • Wait until the suckers are a few inches tall and easily identifiable.
  • Gently grasp the sucker near the base where it meets the main stalk.
  • Snap or twist the sucker off at the base. Avoid using sharp tools that could damage the main stalk.

How to Control Diseases & Pests Organically?

Controlling pests and diseases organically in your sweet corn is all about creating a healthy growing environment and using natural methods to deter problems.

Common Diseases

Fungal Diseases (Northern and Southern Corn Leaf Blight): These cause yellowing and leaf lesions, reducing plant health and cob development.

Bacterial Diseases (Stewart’s Wilt): This causes wilting, yellowing, and stunting of plants.

Preventative Measures

Avoid planting sweet corn in the same location year after year. This helps disrupt the life cycle of pests and diseases that might be lurking in the soil. Also, ensure good spacing between plants as recommended on the seed packet. This allows for proper air circulation and reduces the risk of fungal diseases that thrive in stagnant moisture.

Natural Pest Control

Beneficial Insects: Attract beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and minute pirate bugs to your garden. These natural predators help control aphids, caterpillars, and other harmful insects. You can plant companion flowers like marigolds or nasturtiums to attract these beneficial insects.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a powder made from fossilized algae. It can be dusted on plants to deter crawling insects like cutworms and beetles. [BUY HERE]

Insecticidal soap sprays are made from natural ingredients like fatty acids and they can be effective against aphids, mites, and other soft-bodied insects on contact.

Organic Disease Management

Water deeply and infrequently, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings. This discourages fungal diseases that thrive in constantly moist conditions.

Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of your sweet corn plants. Mulch helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature. This can create a less favorable environment for some soilborne diseases.

Neem oil, derived from the neem tree, can be used as a fungicide and insecticide spray. It disrupts the life cycle of various pests and diseases. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product label for proper dilution and application.

A baking soda solution can be used as a preventative measure against fungal diseases like powdery mildew. Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 1 gallon of water and spray on leaves.

Organic methods may require more frequent application compared to conventional pesticides. Consistency is key to effectiveness. Observe your plants regularly and intervene at the first sign of trouble. Early detection and action are crucial for successful organic pest and disease control.

Don’t Grow these Plants with Corn

Here are some plants you should avoid planting near your sweet corn for various reasons:

Tomatoes and Eggplant: These plants share some common pests and diseases with sweet corn, such as tomato hornworm and corn earworm. Planting them close together can increase the risk of pests and disease spread between them.

Brassicas (Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Kale, Cauliflower): These are all heavy feeders, meaning they require a lot of nutrients from the soil. Planting them near sweet corn, which is also a heavy feeder, creates competition for essential nutrients. Additionally, brassicas can grow quite tall and shade the sweet corn, hindering its growth.

Potatoes: Corn earworms are attracted to both corn and potatoes. Planting them in close proximity increases the risk of these pests damaging both crops.

Pole Beans (unless used for support): While some varieties of bush beans can be good companion plants for corn, pole beans are not ideal. Their vining growth can smother young corn plants and compete for space and sunlight. However, if you use pole beans to create a natural trellis for your sweet corn, then planting them together can be beneficial.

Sunflowers: Similar to brassicas, sunflowers can grow quite tall and cast excessive shade on your sweet corn, hindering its access to sunlight.

Here are some alternatives that can be good companion plants for sweet corn:

  • Melons and Squash: These vining plants act as a living mulch, helping suppress weeds and retain moisture around the corn stalks. Squash is my favorite survival food. Not only it’s easy to grow but also it has a superior nutritional value. Among others, winter squash is particularly rich in carotenoids.
  • Beans (Bush Beans): Bush beans fix nitrogen in the soil, which can benefit sweet corn growth. Just ensure they are planted at the base of the cornstalks and not crowding them.
  • Peas: Peas are another nitrogen-fixing legume that can be a good companion plant for corn, especially if planted early in the season.
  • Herbs (Dill, Basil): These aromatic herbs can help deter some pests with their strong scents. Additionally, dill is said to improve the flavor of sweet corn.
  • Marigolds and Nasturtiums: These flowering plants attract beneficial insects like ladybugs that can help control pests on your sweet corn.

When to Harvest?

Knowing the right time to harvest your sweet corn is crucial for enjoying it at its peak flavor and sweetness.

Look at the information on your seed packet. It will specify the recommended number of days from planting until harvest for that specific variety. This is a good starting point, but it can vary slightly depending on your growing conditions.

The husks of mature corn will be filled out and plump, with the cob feeling firm to the touch. Immature ears will feel thin and undeveloped.

The corn silks, which emerge from the top of the ear, will start to dry out and turn brown as the cob matures. Ideally, most of the silks should be brown and dry, with a few possibly still yellow. The tassel at the top of the corn stalk will also turn brown and dry as the cob matures.

Testing the Kernels: Peel back a small section of the husk near the tip of the cob. If the kernels inside feel plump and round when pressed with your thumbnail, and a milky white liquid oozes out, the corn is ready to harvest. If the liquid is clear and watery, the cob is not yet mature. If no liquid comes out, the cob is past its prime.

Harvesting Tips

  • Harvest in the morning. This is when the sugars in the kernels are at their peak.
  • Twist and Pull: Don’t cut the cob from the stalk. Instead, grasp the ear firmly and twist it downwards with a snapping motion to detach it from the stalk.

Storage Tips

Sweet corn is best enjoyed right after harvest when its sugars are at their peak. The longer you store it, the more the sugars convert to starches, affecting its sweetness.

Refrigerate: This is the most common method. Leave the husks on the corn and store the cobs in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Husks help retain moisture and protect the kernels. Aim for a temperature around 32-40°F (0-4°C). Avoid storing sweet corn near strong-smelling foods in the refrigerator as they can absorb odors.

Damp Paper Towel Trick: For additional moisture retention, dampen a paper towel and wrap it around the husks before storing them in the refrigerator. This helps prevent the husks from drying out.

Off-the-Cob Storage (for short-term use): If you plan to use the kernels within a day or two, you can shuck the corn and store the kernels. Place the kernels in an airtight container to prevent them from drying out and absorbing odors. Store the container of kernels in the refrigerator.

Storage Methods for Longer-Term Storage

Blanching and Freezing: This is a great way to preserve sweet corn for several months. Blanch the husked cobs for a few minutes, then cool them rapidly in ice water. Cut the kernels off the cob and freeze them in airtight freezer bags. Blanching helps deactivate enzymes that can lead to spoilage during freezing.

Drying: You can dry sweet corn kernels for long-term storage. However, this method requires specialized equipment (dehydrator) and significantly reduces the fresh flavor and texture.

How to Store Seeds for the Next Year?

Saving sweet corn seeds for next year is a great way to be self-sufficient and enjoy your favorite varieties year after year.

Focus on saving seeds from open-pollinated sweet corn varieties. These varieties will produce seeds that grow true to the parent plant, unlike hybrid varieties.

Allow the ears of corn to dry completely on the stalk after the silks have browned and the kernels are plump. You can leave the husks on for additional protection while drying. Once the husks feel dry and papery, shuck the ears and remove the kernels from the cob. You can use your thumb to scrape them off or cut the kernels off with a knife.

Spread the kernels in a single layer on a clean drying screen or tray. Remove any debris or immature kernels. Choose a well-ventilated location out of direct sunlight with good air circulation. Aim for a temperature between 60-80°F (15-27°C). Using a fan can help with air circulation.

Stir the kernels daily to ensure even drying throughout. The drying process typically takes 1-2 weeks, depending on humidity and air circulation. Once the kernels feel hard and dry to the touch, with no moisture dent when bitten, they are ready for storage.

Seed Storage

Use airtight containers like mason jars, sealed plastic containers, or foil packets specifically designed for seed storage. Consider adding a small desiccant packet to each container to absorb any remaining moisture and prevent mold growth during storage.

Store your seeds in a cool, dark location with consistent temperatures ideally between 40-50°F (4-10°C). A basement, garage (if temperature-controlled), or unheated room can work well. Avoid storing seeds in areas with fluctuating temperatures or near heat sources.

Sweet corn seeds can generally remain viable for 2-3 years under proper storage conditions. However, germination rates might decline after the first year. Before planting your saved seeds, you can perform a germination test to assess their viability. This will help you determine how many seeds to plant to ensure a successful crop.

Don’t forget to label your seeds with the variety name and date of harvest for future reference.

21+1 Growing Hacks about Sweet Corn I Wish I Knew Sooner

Growing delicious sweet corn is a satisfying experience, but there’s always room for improvement! Here are 22 hacks to elevate your sweet corn game:

Pre-Sprout for Faster Starts: Get a head start by pre-sprouting seeds indoors a few days before transplanting.

Plant Deep Enough: Sow seeds 1-1.5 inches deep for proper root development.

Warm Up the Soil: Use black plastic mulch or a germination mat to warm the soil for optimal seed germination (sweet corn prefers warm soil).

Drainage is Key: Sweet corn dislikes soggy feet. Ensure your soil drains well, amending it with sand if needed.

Nutrient Richness: Provide fertile soil with a slightly acidic pH (around 6.0-6.8) for optimal growth. Compost or aged manure can be great amendments.

Companions for Success: Plant bush beans as companions to fix nitrogen in the soil, beneficial for corn.

Sun Seekers: Sweet corn thrives in full sun, needing at least 6-8 hours daily for healthy growth and cob development.

Avoid Afternoon Shade (Hot Climates): In very hot climates, consider temporary shade during the hottest part of the afternoon to prevent stress on plants.

Consistent Moisture: Water regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Allow the top inch of soil to dry slightly between waterings.

Deep Watering: Deep watering encourages roots to grow deep, leading to stronger plants.

Pollination Power: Sweet corn is wind-pollinated. Gently shake the plants every few days to help disperse pollen, especially if there’s little wind.

Sweet Corn Growing Hacks: Expert Tips for Beginner Home GardenersPin

Fertilize for Flavor: Use a balanced fertilizer every few weeks during the growing season, following the product’s instructions.

Mulch Magic: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of your plants to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.

Beneficial Bug Buffet: Attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings to control aphids and other pests by planting companion flowers like marigolds.

Row Cover Protection: Use floating row covers to protect young seedlings from pests like corn earworms and cabbage moths.

Organic Options: For pest control, consider insecticidal soap sprays, neem oil sprays, or diatomaceous earth (DE) depending on the specific pest.

Crop Rotation: Avoid planting corn in the same spot year after year to disrupt the life cycle of soilborne diseases.

Spacing it Out: Proper spacing between plants (as recommended on the seed packet) allows for good air circulation and reduces the risk of fungal diseases.

Watering Wisely: Water deeply and infrequently, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings to discourage fungal diseases.

Know Your Maturity: Harvest when the cobs are plump, silks are mostly brown and dry, and a milky white liquid appears when pressing a kernel with your thumbnail.

Harvest in the Morning: Pick corn in the morning when sugars are at their peak for the best flavor.

Twist and Pull: Don’t cut the cob! Twist and pull the ear downwards with a snapping motion to detach it from the stalk.

Other Key Foods for a Survival Garden

Plant a variety of crops to ensure a well-rounded supply of nutrients and avoid dependence on a single food source.

Calorie-Dense Foods

Winter Squash (Butternut, Acorn, Kabocha): These winter squash varieties store exceptionally well for months, providing a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates.

Sweet Potatoes & carrots: These versatile root vegetables are packed with Vitamin A and complex carbohydrates, and can be easily stored for several months in cool, dark conditions. Carrots are an easy crop to grow even for an amateur gardener.

Potatoes: A classic survival garden staple, potatoes offer a good source of carbohydrates, potassium, and vitamin C. While not storable as long as winter squash, they can be kept for a few weeks under proper conditions.

Dry Beans (Lentils, Pinto, Kidney): Excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber, dry beans can be stored for long periods (up to a year) and cooked into various nutritious meals.

Nutrient-Rich Greens & Herbs

Kale: A superfood high in vitamins A, C, and K, kale is known for its resilience and can be harvested throughout most of the growing season, even in cooler weather.

Swiss Chard: Similar to kale in its nutritional profile and hardiness, Swiss Chard offers another excellent source of vitamins and minerals for your survival garden.

Spinach: A good source of vitamins A, C, and K, spinach can be grown in both spring and fall seasons, providing essential greens to your diet.

Herbs (Parsley, Basil, Oregano): While not a sole source of sustenance, herbs add essential flavor and some vitamins to your meals, boosting overall palatability in your survival situation.

Garlic: A natural antibiotic with a long shelf life, garlic adds a flavor boost and potential health benefits to your survival diet.

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