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Growing Corn in Raised Beds
Love the taste of corn, but think you lack the space to grow it in? As long as you have a raised bed, you’re all set! Growing corn in raised beds isn’t substantially different from growing it in a regular garden.
Raised bed gardening has a few unique benefits. Raised beds can improve your corn plants’ health, since they offer better drainage, improve weed and pest control, and often use higher quality soil. They’re also beneficial for us gardeners, since raised beds are often easier to access and have looser soil that’s easier to work.
Here are a few tips for making the most of your corn crop:
Raised Bed Placement
If you have a mobile raised bed or multiple beds to choose from, go with a deep bed in an area that gets plenty of light. Ideally, your bed should be at least a foot deep and get 6 hours or more of sun per day.
If you have multiple raised beds in an area, consider the layout of your other plants and the direction of the sun’s light when picking a bed for your corn. Try to plant the corn in a way that won’t unnecessarily shade the other beds. Your smaller plants will thank you with better health and yields. This usually means planting corn in the northernmost section of your garden.
No matter where you grow your corn, it will enjoy getting plenty of nitrogen-rich fertilizer. We like to use the rotted cow manure we already have on our property, but other great options are a small amount of vegetable fertilizer or compost.
If you use rotted compost or manure, work it into the soil in the spring before planting. Remember not to use fresh manure in the spring though. Any fertilizer that hasn’t had time to rot needs to be worked into your bed during the prior fall to reduce the risk of disease and plant burn.
Some manufactured fertilizers should be worked in before planting, while other varieties can be added in throughout the growing season. Look at the directions on your fertilizer for guidance. Some may recommend re-fertilizing as often as every two weeks.
Planting Corn in Raised Beds
When selecting seeds, pick whatever corn variety you enjoy. Any type of corn that can be regularly grown in the garden can be grown in a raised bed as well. Our favorite variety is the American Dream Hybrid, which always produces exceptionally sweet corn.
Plant your corn after the last frost date for your area, when the soil is at least 64 degrees. For zone 5, that’s around Memorial Day, but check your own zone and forecast to be safe. You should direct seed corn for the best results, so don’t worry about starting it indoors ahead of time.
No matter how high quality your seeds, you’ll get a few non-sprouters. You can either plant more than one seed per hole and pull the smaller one if they both sprout, or simply watch carefully for any that don’t start, and replant those areas within a week or two. Just don’t wait too long to replant, or the larger plants’ head start will be too hard for the younger ones to compete with.
Consider not planting all of your corn at once. To help space out your harvest, you can plant one row or square each week. Plant them in order from farthest from the sunshine to closest. That way, your more distant corn will have a chance to grow and get sunlight before the others grow and block out the light.
Depending on the shape and size of your bed, you can either choose to grow your corn in rows, square feet, or in a triangular pattern.
1. Growing Corn in Rows
This is the method we always use, and it’s ideal if you’re prepared to harvest a lot of corn. It’s the same idea as planting corn in a field, but on a smaller and more compact scale. Simply plant the corn in rows around 12-18 inches apart from each other. Space the corn seeds as directed by your seed packet.
2. Growing Corn in Square Feet
This method helps if you have a small bed or will only use part of your bed for corn. In the square foot method, you’ll measure out a square foot of your raised bed, then plant a seed in each of the four corners. Repeat this pattern to add additional squares if you want more than four plants.
3. Growing Corn in a Triangular Pattern
If you have a large, rectangular bed, it’s also possible to grow corn in a triangular pattern. This method leaves a little over a foot of space between each corn plant in every direction, with well-spaced rows of two and three plants each. The pattern will resemble a series of triangles when you’re done. Here’s a helpful guide to this method.
Corn needs plenty of water. If you aren’t getting much rain during the growing season, water by hand. An inch of water per week is a good benchmark.
Keep track of your corn’s growth. A common saying here is that corn should be knee high by the Fourth of July. If it isn’t, your crop may be behind and in danger of frost damage come fall.
Once your corn grows tassels, it’s pollination time! Corn plants are wind pollinated. Because of this, the fewer plants you have, the less likely they are to pollinate fully. If you’re worried, gently shake your corn plants to scatter the pollen and ensure even, full ears of corn.
Harvesting Your Raised Bed Corn
Once the silk is entirely brown, and the silk end of your corn feels gently curved instead of sharp at the tip, it’s time to pick your corn.
To harvest, simply pull down and twist the ear off. Enjoy it as soon as possible for the best flavor. If it’ll be more than an hour before you cook it, leave it in the husk.
Happy Corn Growing!
With these tips for growing corn in raised beds, you should be able to enjoy a great corn harvest this fall.
Looking for other raised bed tips? Here’s how to grow pumpkins in raised beds.