What Is the Best Time for Planting Sweet Corn in Florida?

The crisp and delicious crunch of sweet corn is distinctly reminiscent of warm and lazy summer nights spent eating, grilling, and laughing with family and friends. Luckily, planting sweet corn is relatively simple, as long as you sow at the right time and give it all the nutrients and water it needs to thrive. It’s particularly effortless to grow this seasonal treat in Florida, which may be why we’re the number one state for the production of fresh sweet corn.

Growing Sweet Corn Plants

Even gardening newbies should have no trouble growing sweet corn on the cob to be enjoyed freshly boiled. These vegetable plants can also be wrapped in tin foil and thrown on the grill. The sweet corn varieties are endless when it comes to cooking.

If you’ve been saving seeds, here are some tips on when and how you should grow sweet corn plants if you live in the Sunshine State. You’ll also learn how to get the best yield out of your fresh corn garden.

What Season Should You Plant Sweet Corn?

Florida is one of the best locations for growing many vegetables and has a well-suited climate for soil temperatures. Corn plants are a great vegetable that is easy to grow, but it’s sensitive to frost.

The best planting time is early spring around the middle of April. Early varieties of corn grow best in heavy soils and hot weather.

However, if you want to know when it is available, fresh corn season in Florida is technically October. This is the time when you can find it available in local stores and farmer’s markets.  

How Long Does Corn Take to Grow

From seed to harvest, for early variety planting corn, you need at least 90-120 days with no frost. The large variance is because different varieties will vastly change how long it takes for corn to maturity.

growing sweet corn

Early Variety Corn

If you plant your Florida sweet corn around April 15th, it will start to silk and tassel around the first week of June. This is around the general time summer rains occur in Florida, giving your sweet corn plants plenty of life-giving water.

Add some mulch to keep the roots from drying out and add starter fertilizer to give emerging seedlings a boost from the ground. The rich soil should be at least 60° for optimal seeding conditions.

sweet corn plants

How Should Sweet Corn Be Planted?

Planting corn is best in an area of at least 10 ft x 10 ft, in a 3 x 3 block at a minimum to allow for proper pollination. If you don’t give your sweet corn enough space, it won’t cross-pollinate or have proper ear development.

Grow a Large Garden

A general rule for planting sweet corn is the larger the plot, the better. It should be planted from seed directly in the soil for better germination since it doesn’t transplant very well.  

Pick the Ideal Spot

Once you’ve got a seed, till the soil thoroughly to make it easier to work with. Pick the perfect spot in your home garden to give your cornstalks plenty of sunlight, nutrients, and space to flourish.

Find a sunny patch that’s protected from the worst of the strong winds. Make sure your area is free of weeds. Weeds will compete with your sweet corn for nutrients, so pull any you find. Side-dress corn with lots of nitrogen fertilizer, which translates to about 20 or 30 lbs of compost per 100 square feet of soil.

How To Sow Sweet Corn Kernels

For the healthiest crop of sweet corn possible, plant your kernels about 7 to 15 inches apart in the soil of your garden. Though the best time to plant corn on the cob is mid-April, if you’re going to sow your seeds early, place them only about an inch deep into the soil.

If you want to start your garden in midsummer, you should be growing sweet corn seeds about two inches deep in the earth.

Plant Your Kernels in Rows

Sweet corn is a heavy feeder and grows rapidly. Plant the seeds in short rows about five to six inches apart. Corn is wind-pollinated, so it’s recommended to form your rows into blocks at least three rows wide, which is the best for maximum cross-pollination.

Once healthy seedlings emerge, thin the smaller, weaker plants until the strong ones are about one foot apart. Be careful not to damage the shallow roots in this process.

planting sweet corn

Hand-Pollinating Your Sweet Corn Patch

Ensuring that your corn is properly pollinated is vital to increase your garden’s size and yield. You already know corn is wind-pollinated, which means the wind has to whisk the pollen off the male tassels and get it onto the female silks on the top of the ear.

If you don’t have room for a three-by-three block and have to plant in a single row, you can have good pollination by doing the job yourself. Watch closely for the silks to show themselves and for the tassels to open slightly, at which point the pollen is ready to be collected.

Shake and Transfer Plant

Find a bucket and place it under the tassels. Shake the stalk gently to release the pollen, and then promptly transfer it into a paper bag. Now, you can carefully scatter it by hand onto all the other silks to ensure they’re adequately pollinated.

Keep Pests Out of Your Sweet Corn

There’s nothing worse than shucking corn and finding a squirming bug lurking underneath the husk and the whole top end of the corn mushy and ruined.

However, there are some steps you can take to keep your corn safe from pests, such as corn borers, corn sap beetles, cinch bugs, and moths. Insecticides are a common and effective method, but there are better organic options available.

Rotate Planted Corn

One organic solution is to till the earth in your garden regularly and rotate your plants every season to improve nutrient absorption and prevent the crop pest, corn earworm.

Try placing a clothespin or rubber band at the top of the husk where the silk emerges to limit their access. Apply a few drops of mineral oil on the top of the ears before closing them off with the rubber band to suffocate any existing larvae.

How Much Sun Does a Corn Plant Need?

Plant in full sun (all types of corn need at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight). Corn plants have particular soil preferences. Given that maize has a tendency to soak up a lot of water, the soil should be well-draining but continuously moist.

The best time to incorporate organic matter or well-rotted manure into the soil is in the fall. If that isn’t possible, simply incorporate seasoned soil before planting.

How Long Does it Take for an Ear of Corn to Grow?

Once your corn field has grown fat ears of corn, it’s critical to avoid harvesting them before they’re completely ripe to eat. You should generally wait about 20 days after the first showing of silk. Each stalk should have at least one ear, but you should pick the bigger, more mature ears towards the top.  

Before You Eat

Before you eat, check the corn you’re about to harvest to make sure it’s in the “milk stage.” To do this, break the skin on a kernel with your thumbnail. If a milky liquid emerges, you’re all set. If it’s clear, it’s not ready to be picked just yet. If there’s no liquid at all, you waited too long to harvest, and the crop is now inedible.

How To Harvest Your Sweet Corn

When removing the ear of corn from the stalk, get a firm grip, pull it downwards, and then give it another twist and pull. If it’s mature, it should come off quickly and easily. After you’re done harvesting the kernels, pull up the plant entirely, cut it into pieces, and compost your heart out while you’re enjoying your hand-grown, farm-fresh sweet corn.  

Sweet Corn Varieties

There are many different sweet corn types, ranging from yellow to white. Traditional field corn does not have as much sugar content as standard sweet corn. Field corn also produces tall plants compared to sweeter growing corn. Dakota Black is another type of corn where the kernel color is black. Whichever variety you choose for your garden, these sweet kernels will be a delicious addition.

To grow sweet corn the same way we do, start planting in mid-April and create a large block instead of long rows to increase pollination. Water the plants in your home gardens regularly and add fertilizer to boost the fresh seedlings. Sweet corn is fairly easy to grow, and anybody can produce beautiful, fat ears with a little hard work.

Posted by Amaral Farms

HI and thanks for visiting my blog. I guess I would say I have always been a gardener at heart. My parents gardened and I helped them from a young age. As an adult I took to the organic movement and began gardening using almost exclusively organic methods. My focus has shifted the last decade to add heirloom gardening to the mix. By no means an expert, I do enjoy it and spend at least a few hours a week dedicated to it. I hope you enjoy and gain some value from my blog. Check out my tips for growing tomatoes in pots.