When to Harvest Corn: The Beginners’ Harvesting Guide

The most important thing for gardeners is knowing when to harvest corn. Indeed, the fresh crop that you can pick from your backyard is much better than the ones you bought from the store.

The best time to pick the corn from its plant is when the ears are at the perfect peak.

If the corn is left for too long, it will not be good corn because of the hardened and starched kernels. This article covers all the things about corn harvesting.

Knowing the right time for harvesting is indeed very important. However, knowing how to plant and grow is also essential.


Types of Sweet Corn

Sweet corn can be divided into three types: normal sugary (SU), sugary enhancer (SE) and supersweet (Sh2). SUs are best suited to being picked, husked and eaten within a very short time.
Sweet Corn Types

To be clear, this page will focus on growing and harvesting sweet corn. Some varieties are available out there.

The varieties are categorized by their growing season such as early, mid, and late-season.

Well, the quickest one to grow would be the early-season varieties. It may take the whole growing season for the late-season varieties.

For the hybrid varieties, there are four main types of sweet corn. The sugary, sugar-enhanced, shrunken, and Synergistic.

Those are having different levels of sucrose. Likewise, the flavor and texture of the corns are different.

When to Plant Corn

Corn is a tender, warm-season annual that is best planted after the soil temperature reaches 60°F (16°C), usually 2 or 3 weeks after the last frost in spring.
Corn Picture

Growing a corn plant indoors is not quite recommended. The best one to start a corn plant is in the garden outdoor.

That would make the sensitive roots left undisturbed. In spring, wait until the last frost date for sowing. After fourteen days, it is the right time to sow the seeds.

It could be different in some regions.

After directly sowing the seeds into the soil, plant them as soon as possible because their growth takes a longer time.

The success of germination depends on the right temperature of the soil. Make sure it is 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Several weeks later, begin another round to spread out the harvest. So, what is the ideal planting site for corn?

Well, corns are a little bit picky about the soil. Preparing the soil can be both easy and hard.

For an easy method, you can just mix an aged compost prior to planting. Make sure it is well-drained and moist consistently.

Corn Planting Steps

The planting depth of your corn should be one inch or 2.5 centimeters under the soil. The spacing is 12 inches or 30 centimeters apart. You will want to space the row of corn 3 feet or 91 centimeters.
Planting Corn

Before knowing when to harvest corn, you have to know some simple steps to plant. In order to get speedy germination, you have to moisten seeds.

Then, wrap them in moist paper towels. After that, use a plastic bag to keep the seeds for one day.

When it is ready to plant, sow the seeds about one and a half to two inches deep into the soil. Make sure each of them is 4 to 6 apart.

How about the rows? They should be 30 to 36 inches far.

Fertilization during planting time is recommended for corn. Add a 10-10-10 fertilizer to get the corm growing rapidly.

However, you can skip the fertilizing step if you think your soil is ideal enough. Watering is the final and important step of corn planting.

Water them well after the sowing.

Growing the Corn Plant

Plant the corn seeds about 1 inch deep and 3 to 4 inches apart in the row. Space the rows 2½ to 3 feet apart.
Corn Plant

Planting and growing are two different things. Therefore, there are distinctive steps to grow the corn well.

When the plants reach 3-4 inches tall, you have to thin them to set the space about 8 to 12 inches apart. Do not disturb the corn roots when you weed around the corn.

Regular watering is quite important.

Corn has a shallow root that becomes stressed because of dryness. When it is too hot, you should water more.

When the corn is about 8 inches tall, you can add a high-nitrogen fertilizer to dress on the side. Repeat this process when the corn is 18 inches tall.

To reduce evaporation, you should mulch the plants. Hopefully, it leads to a good quality of harvesting by knowing when to harvest corn.

Pest and Diseases

Cutworms, wireworms, white grubs, seed corn maggots and lesser cornstalk borers may build up in grass sod or where previous crop residue has been left on the soil surface at planting.
Corn Pests and Diseases

There are some issues that corn gardeners would face. It can come from fungus, insects, or even mammals.

The first one is Anthracnose which will appear in a form of spots on leaves. You can just remove the infected plants away.

For the prevention method, you should provide good drainage.

Some corn earworms can also be a major problem for corn plants. This insect will eat silks and kernels of corn.

Apply vegetable or mineral oil to each tip of corn ears.

Another insect is Earwigs. You may notice many small holes in the plants. This will also be a nightmare for corn planting.

All the diseases and pests can be handled with the right treatments. Most of them are also problems for many other plants.

A mammal-like deer can be a problem to the corn plant. It tends to chew the stalks and ears. Find the best treatment for it.

This part is also very important. If you do not know the knowledge to deal with pests and diseases, there is no need to know the right time or when to harvest corn.

The Right Time to Harvest

Corn is ready for harvest about 20 days after the silk first appears. At harvest time, the silk turns brown, but the husks are still green. Each stalk should have at least one ear near the top.
Right Time to Harvest Corn

As mentioned, knowing when to harvest corn is one of the essential factors for the great quality of the crop.

Harvesting the sweet corn or the fruit will start around 20 days after the initial silk.

Wait for twenty days more when you see the silk appears. The time when to harvest corn is when there are brown silks and green husks.

One ear of the plant should be near the top of each stalk. Additionally, there will be another one on the stalks.

Only one ear near the top is all you need. It is how to know when to harvest corn.

The plants with lower ears have smaller sizes. They will mature a little bit later. So, is it the time to pick them?

Initially, ensure that they are in the “milk stage”. Hence, check for it inside. If you find clear liquid, it is not ready.

Meanwhile, when there is no liquid, it is too late.

Too Late or Too Early

Corn requires from 60 to 100 days to reach harvest depending on the variety and warm weather. Corn is ready for harvest when ears turn dark green, silks turn brown, and kernels are soft and plump; squeeze a kernel and the juice will be milky, not clear.
Harvesting Corn

It is very important to know exactly when to harvest corn. Because it will affect the quality. If picking the corn is too early, the kernels will still become hard.

That is because the time to ripen and plump is not happening yet.

So, how about when picking the corn too late? Well, the corn is getting mealy. Also, you cannot eat it at all.

Thereupon, it is crucial to know when to harvest corn since we want to get the best quality of corn.

It will surely taste the best too.

Picking the Sweet Corn

Use your fingernail to puncture a kernel. The liquid inside is going to tell you a lot about your timing. If the liquid that comes out is very clear and watery, they're not ripe yet. If you can see through the liquid and yet it looks milky, the corn is perfect for picking.
Sweet Corn

After dealing with the time when to harvest corn, you should know how to pick. On a day, the early morning becomes the best time to pick corn.

What is the proper method to pick sweet corn? Begin grasping the ear firmly and pull it down. Then, twist and pull.

The corn will come off the stalk at ease.

It is not necessary to harvest the whole plant at that time. For the initial days, just pick what you need in a day.

However, do not leave the corn on the plant for too long. It is important to harvest the whole crop during its milky stage.

After harvesting, pull up the stalks immediately. Then, cut them into a foot long. After that, mix them with the compost pile to hasten the decaying process.

Some people may want to know the detail on how to pick corn by hand. They need to see the real-life process of picking corn.

There are many videos of corn harvesting available online. You can learn by watching those videos. It is done after knowing when to harvest corn.

Storing the Fresh Sweet Corn

If the ears are shucked, place them into a plastic bag, such as a produce bag from the supermarket, and store them in your refrigerator. Either way, fresh corn should be eaten within a couple days. Otherwise, it becomes dried out and less sweet.
Storing Sweet Corn

Although the best corn is the freshly-picked one, you also need to know how to store it. Actually, the best way to store the fresh corn is in the fridge.

Keep the corn crops for up to a week long. Just freeze them if you need longer time storage. You can freeze the corn with or without the cob.

How to pick corn on the cob easily? There are many references you could find on the internet. Well, here is the best one we could find.

First, prepare the material. You will need a very sharp serrated bread knife and a Bundt cake pan. It is super simple and so inexpensive.

What you should do is put the corn into the middle of the pan. Take the knife. Hold the corn carefully.

Then, run the knife down the side of your corn. The pan easily catches the kernels for you. This process will be finished clean and simple. You have to try it.

If that kind of pan is not available, you may use another type of similar one. Using the plate may cause some scratches on it.


After knowing when to harvest corn and all the things about planting corn, you will be ready. The backyard will be a corn garden that would produce all the sweet corn for your daily needs.

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