Lessons Learned From 2 Years Of Growing Corn

Growing corn has been one of my most satisfying gardening projects over the last two years. But I’ve learned some lessons I’ll carry forward to next year.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Growing corn has been one of my most satisfying gardening projects over the last two years. A single 4-foot by 10-foot corn bed in 2021 proved so productive that I tripled my corn planting to a trio of beds in 2022. I staggered the planting of each bed to spread out the harvest.

Overall, I’m happy with the results. I’ve enjoyed many dinners of fresh corn this summer, with more to come as the final bed reaches harvest time. But along the way, I’ve witnessed firsthand the importance of watering and weeding. You might say I’ve learned some lessons that I’ll carry forward for 2023.

Everyone knows watering regularly and weeding diligently are important steps for raising a healthy and productive garden. But you might not notice all the impacts unless you grow multiple beds with slightly different approaches and compare results.

Read more: Turn heads & increase seed diversity with glass gem corn.

Learning on the Job

Let me give you some examples. In 2021, I was determined to succeed at my first attempt growing corn. To that end, I watered the bed every day, even though it wasn’t close to a convenient water source and I had to haul water in a 35-gallon leg tank.

In 2022, due to a super-packed schedule of work and farm projects, I shifted to watering the corn beds every two or three days. The plants still grew happily, but they didn’t get as tall. Each bed produced about 25 percent less corn than the single bed in 2021.

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Read more: Take water with you using a 35-gallon leg tank.

Lessons in Weeds

Now, let’s talk about weeding. In 2022, I weeded the beds thoroughly before planting and again during the summer, once the corn had grown tall enough to shade any other weeds that tried to pop up.

But to be more specific … I only weeded two of the beds. The third bed, I’m afraid, had to fend for itself.

To its credit, the plants in the weedy bed grew just as tall as in the two weeded beds and produced a similar (perhaps slightly lower) volume of corn. But the weedy bed definitely had more pests living among the leaves and nibbling at the ends of the corn. (I should mention that I don’t spray my corn.)

Ultimately, I’ve drawn two conclusions from two years of growing corn:

  • Daily watering helps the plants grow taller and produce more corn.
  • Weeding helps reduce the number of hungry pests.

I know, I know. Two years isn’t exactly a huge sample size for drawing definite conclusions. And my takeaways are more anecdotal than scientific. There was nothing scientifically controlled about my inadvertent experiments. And for all I know other unforeseen factors may have had a greater impact than watering and weeding.

But then again … watering regularly and weeding diligently are rarely bad strategies, right? Maybe I can grow a decent amount of corn by watering every few days and rarely weeding. But for best results, I plan to take the lessons I’ve learned over the past two years and apply them thoroughly in 2023.

And maybe I’ll plant my corn a little closer to a handy water source next time!

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