How to Grow: Small Space Corn

Learn about growing sweet corn in small spaces including information on varieties and growing techniques.

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It is as quintessential as the fourth of July and apple pie. Sweet corn is an All-American crop and there’s nothing like munching on an ear of freshly picked corn on a hot summer day. It’s so sweet, I don’t even bother cooking it.

When gardeners think of growing sweet corn we often think it terms of large plots of land. There’s a good reason for that. Corn is wind pollinated. The tassel produces pollen grains that fall on the sticky hairs of the corn ear. Each individual hair is attached to a kernel of corn and must have a pollen grain pollinate it. When you think about how many kernels are in an ear of corn, that’s a lot of pollen. By growing corn in groups you increase the chances of getting complete pollination.

But most home gardeners don’t have the luxury of committing a large area to growing sweet corn. Luckily, you don’t have to. You can grow your own sweet corn in an area as small as 4 feet by 4 feet. Here’s how. Choose varieties, such as ‘On Deck’, that grow only 4 to 5 feet tall. Plant 4 rows, spaced 1 foot apart, 4 feet long. Grow only one variety per block. You can also grow 4 to 5 plants in a 2-foot wide container. This tight spacing is more likely to insure pollination than growing corn in a few long rows. To help pollination, once the tassels form, place a brown bag over them to collect the pollen and sprinkle it on the ear silks. Repeat this 3 days in a row. You should have edible sweet corn a few weeks later.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.