How To Plant Corn By Hand [ Full Guide ]

Corn, also known as maize, is a versatile and staple food crop that has been cultivated for centuries. Whether you have a small backyard garden or a larger plot of land, planting corn by hand can be a gratifying and rewarding experience. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of planting corn by hand, from selecting the right variety and preparing the soil to determining spacing, selecting seeds, and ensuring optimal growth conditions.

Quick Answer: How To Plant Corn By Hand

  1. Choose the right variety of corn: Select a corn variety that is well-suited to your growing region and meets your specific needs, whether it’s for fresh eating, livestock feed, or processing.
  2. Prepare the soil for planting: Ensure that the soil is well-drained, nutrient-rich, and has a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. Perform a soil test if necessary and amend the soil with organic matter and fertilizers as needed.
  3. Determine spacing and row layout: Corn requires adequate spacing for optimal growth and pollination. Plan the layout of your rows, ensuring sufficient distance between plants.
  4. Select and prepare seeds: Choose high-quality corn seeds from a reliable source. Pre-soak the seeds to encourage germination and treat them if necessary to prevent diseases and pests.
  5. Plant the seeds: Plant the corn seeds at the proper depth and spacing, ensuring they are well-watered and cared for throughout the growing season.
  6. Maintain the crop: Monitor the corn plants for any signs of pests, diseases, or nutrient deficiencies. Provide adequate water, weed control, and any necessary support as the corn grows.
  7. Harvest the corn: Once the corn has reached maturity, harvest the ears at the right time and store them properly to maintain quality.

Now, let’s delve into each step of planting corn by hand in greater detail.

Choosing The Right Variety Of Corn

The first and crucial step in planting corn by hand is choosing the right variety that suits your specific needs and growing conditions. When selecting a variety of corn, consider the following factors:

Climate And Growing Conditions

Different varieties of corn thrive in specific climatic and soil conditions. Determine the average temperature, rainfall patterns, and length of the growing season in your area, and select a variety that is well-adapted to these conditions.

Purpose Of The Crop

Decide the purpose for which you are growing corn. Are you growing it for fresh consumption, livestock feed, silage, or processing? This will influence the type of corn variety you choose, as different varieties have varying characteristics such as sweetness, starch content, and kernel size.

Disease Resistance

Check for varieties that are resistant to prevalent diseases in your area. This can help minimize the risk of crop loss due to common diseases such as common rust, southern leaf blight, and northern leaf blight.

Heirloom Vs. Hybrid Varieties

Consider whether you want to grow heirloom or hybrid corn. Heirloom varieties offer traditional flavors and characteristics and can be saved for future plantings, while hybrid varieties often exhibit higher yields, disease resistance, and uniform traits.

Preparing The Soil For Planting

Once you have selected the appropriate variety of corn, the next critical step is to prepare the soil for planting. A well-prepared soil provides the necessary nutrients, aeration, and drainage for the corn plants to thrive.

Soil Testing

Begin by conducting a soil test to assess the pH level and nutrient content of the soil. Most corn varieties prefer a pH range between 6.0 and 7.0. The soil test will also indicate if any specific nutrients need to be added to optimize the soil for corn cultivation.

Soil Amendments

Based on the results of the soil test, make necessary amendments to the soil. Organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure can be incorporated into the soil to improve its structure and fertility. Additionally, based on the soil test recommendations, apply fertilizers containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to ensure the corn plants have access to essential nutrients.

Soil Tillage

Prepare the planting area by tilling the soil to a depth of 8-10 inches. This will loosen the soil, facilitate root penetration, and promote better drainage. Remove any debris, large rocks, or weeds from the planting area to create a clean and well-prepared seedbed.

Soil Moisture

Ensure that the soil has adequate moisture before planting. If the soil is too dry, consider watering it a few days before planting to ensure the seeds have a moist environment for germination.

Determining Spacing And Row Layout

Proper spacing and row layout are crucial for the success of your corn crop. The right spacing ensures that the corn plants have enough room to grow, receive adequate sunlight, and facilitate efficient pollination.

Spacing Between Rows

The distance between rows is determined by the expected height and vigor of the corn variety you are planting. Generally, rows are spaced 30-36 inches apart to provide ample space for the corn plants to develop and for ease of cultivation.

Spacing Between Plants

The spacing between individual corn plants within a row is equally important. Aim to space the seeds 8-12 inches apart. This ensures that each plant has enough room to develop strong root systems and allows for optimal air circulation, reducing the risk of fungal diseases.

Row Layout

Consider the layout of your planting area and the orientation of the rows. Typically, rows are oriented north to south to ensure that the corn plants receive uniform sunlight exposure throughout the day.

Hill Planting

For hand planting, consider using the hill planting method for corn, where seeds are planted in small groups or hills rather than in a single continuous row. This can help with pollination and wind stability, especially in windy areas.

Consider Companion Planting

You may also want to consider companion planting with other crops like beans or squash, which can benefit the growth of your corn while utilizing the available space efficiently.

Seed Selection And Preparation

The quality of the seeds and their preparation for planting are crucial factors that directly impact the success of your corn crop. Here’s how to select and prepare corn seeds for optimal germination and growth.

Seed Selection

Choose high-quality corn seeds from a reputable supplier. Look for seeds that are uniform in size and free from physical damage or disease. It’s advisable to purchase seeds that are labeled for the current planting season to ensure good germination rates.

Pre-soaking Seeds

To hasten the germination process, consider pre-soaking the seeds in water for 12-24 hours before planting. This can help soften the seed coat and initiate the germination process more quickly once planted in the soil.

Seed Treatment

Consider treating the seeds with a fungicide or an inoculant if necessary. This step can help protect the seeds from soil-borne diseases and enhance their ability to establish healthy root systems in the soil.

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Planting Depth

The depth at which you plant the corn seeds is crucial. Aim to plant the seeds at a depth of 1-1.5 inches in well-prepared soil. Planting too deep can delay germination, while planting too shallow may expose the seeds to drying out.

Planting The Seeds

With the soil prepared, spacing determined, and seeds ready, it’s time to plant the corn. Follow these steps to ensure the successful planting of your corn crop.

Planting Technique

Using a hand trowel or a dibble, create furrows in the soil at the predetermined spacing and depth. Place the pre-soaked seeds in the furrows, ensuring they are spaced according to the recommended spacing for the variety you are planting.

Covering The Seeds

Carefully cover the seeds with soil, gently firming the soil over the seeds to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Avoid compacting the soil excessively, as it can hinder seed germination and early root growth.


After planting, water the area thoroughly to settle the soil around the seeds and provide initial moisture for germination. Pay attention to soil moisture in the days following planting, as consistent moisture is essential for successful seed germination and early plant growth.

Maintaining The Crop

Once the corn has been planted, ongoing maintenance is essential to ensure healthy growth and a bountiful harvest. Here’s how to care for your corn crop throughout the growing season.


Consistent and adequate moisture is crucial for corn, especially during critical growth stages such as tasseling and ear development. Aim to provide 1-1.5 inches of water per week, either through rainfall or supplementary irrigation. Mulching the soil around the plants can help conserve moisture and suppress weed growth.


Monitor the growth of your corn plants and consider side-dressing with additional nitrogen fertilizer when the plants are knee-high and again when they begin to tassel. Balancing the nutritional needs of the corn plants throughout the season is essential for optimal growth and yield.

Weed Control

Keep the area around the corn plants free of weeds, which can compete for nutrients, moisture, and sunlight. Regularly hand-weed the planting area, being mindful not to disturb the shallow roots of the corn plants.

Pest And Disease Management

Monitor your corn plants for signs of insect pests such as corn earworm, armyworms, and European corn borers, as well as common diseases like common rust and northern leaf blight. Consider using organic pest control methods or approved insecticides and fungicides if needed to protect your crop.

Providing Support

In windy or exposed areas, consider providing support to your corn plants by installing stakes or tying the plants to a support structure to prevent lodging or wind damage.


Corn plants rely on thorough pollination for successful ear development and grain formation. To facilitate pollination, ensure that your corn planting area is located in an open, sunny location to attract pollinators, or hand-pollinate if necessary by shaking the tassels to distribute pollen onto the silks.

Harvesting The Corn

As the corn reaches maturity, it’s time to harvest the ears for consumption or further processing. Here’s how to determine when and how to harvest your corn crop.

Determining Maturity

Corn is typically ready for harvest 18-24 days after the appearance of the silk. Ears should feel full and the kernels should exude a milky sap when punctured with a thumbnail. The husks will also start to turn brown and dry as the ears mature.

Harvesting Technique

When the corn is ready for harvest, grasp the ear firmly and twist it away from the stalk. Be careful not to damage the stalk or adjacent ears during this process. If the weather permits, leave the harvested ears in a warm, dry area with good air circulation to allow them to finish drying.

Storing The Corn

Store the harvested ears in a cool, dry place with good ventilation to prevent mold growth. It’s essential to protect the ears from pests, moisture, and direct sunlight. Consider shelling the corn and storing the kernels in airtight containers for long-term storage.

Planting corn by hand is a fulfilling and rewarding endeavor that allows you to partake in the entire life cycle of this essential crop. By carefully selecting the right variety, preparing the soil, meticulously planting the seeds, and providing ongoing care, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of delicious, homegrown corn. Whether you’re growing it for your family’s table, livestock feed, or as a part of a diverse garden, the process of hand planting corn can be an enriching journey that connects you to the rhythms of nature and the joy of growing your own food. With proper planning and attention to detail, you can witness the miracle of a tiny seed transforming into a thriving corn plant, bearing the fruits of your labor.

Tools And Equipment Needed

Corn, also known as maize, is one of the most widely grown crops in the world. It is not only a staple food for many cultures but also plays a crucial role in various industries. Whether you have a small backyard garden or a larger agricultural field, planting corn by hand can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to grow this versatile crop.

Hand planting corn involves sowing seeds manually, without the use of machinery. This method allows for greater precision and control, ensuring optimal spacing between plants and reducing the risk of overcrowding.

Before getting started, it is important to gather the necessary tools and equipment for hand planting corn. Here is a list of items you will need:

  1. Corn seeds: Choose high-quality, non-GMO corn seeds from a reputable supplier. Consider the specific type of corn you want to grow, such as sweet corn or field corn, and select a variety that is suitable for your climate and growing conditions.

  2. Garden trowel or dibber: A garden trowel or dibber is a handheld tool with a narrow, pointed blade used for making holes in the soil. This tool will be essential for creating the right depth and spacing for planting your corn seeds.

  3. Rake or hoe: A rake or hoe will help you prepare the soil by removing any debris or weeds and creating a smooth, even planting surface.

  4. Measuring tape: To ensure proper spacing between corn plants, a measuring tape will be useful for measuring the distance between each planting hole.

  5. Plant markers: Once you have planted your corn seeds, it is important to mark the rows to keep track of where the plants are located. Plant markers can be as simple as sticks or labels that you can place at the end of each row.

  6. Watering can or hose: Adequate watering is crucial for the successful germination and growth of corn seedlings. A watering can or hose with a gentle spray attachment will allow you to provide the right amount of water without causing damage to the delicate plants.

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Sowing The Seeds: Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you have gathered the necessary tools and equipment, it’s time to start sowing the corn seeds. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to plant corn by hand:

  1. Choose the right location: Corn thrives in full sun, so select a site that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. The soil should be fertile, well-draining, and preferably loamy or sandy. Avoid areas with heavy clay soil or poor drainage.

  2. Prepare the soil: Use a rake or hoe to remove any weeds, rocks, or debris from the planting area. Break up any large clumps of soil and ensure that the surface is smooth and even. If your soil lacks nutrients, consider adding organic matter or compost to improve its fertility.

  3. Determine the spacing: The ideal spacing between corn plants will depend on the specific variety you are planting. As a general rule of thumb, leave about 12-18 inches between each plant within a row and space the rows approximately 30-36 inches apart. This will allow the corn plants to receive enough sunlight and air circulation, promoting healthy growth.

  4. Mark the rows: Use a measuring tape to measure the desired spacing between rows and place plant markers at each end. This will serve as a visual guide when planting the corn seeds.

  5. Dig the planting holes: With a garden trowel or dibber, create holes in the soil at the desired spacing within each row. The depth of the hole should be about 1-2 inches, depending on the size of the corn seeds. Aim to keep the holes consistently deep to ensure even germination and growth.

  6. Plant the seeds: Take a corn seed and place it in each planting hole. Gently cover the seeds with soil, ensuring that they are completely buried and not exposed to the air. Press the soil down lightly to secure the seeds in place.

  7. Repeat the process: Continue making planting holes and placing corn seeds along each row, maintaining the desired spacing. Work your way through the entire planting area until all the seeds have been planted.

Nurturing Corn Seedlings

Once the corn seeds have been planted, it is important to provide proper care and attention to ensure the healthy growth of the seedlings. Here are some tips on nurturing corn seedlings:

  1. Watering: Corn seedlings require consistent moisture to germinate and establish themselves. Keep the soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. Watering deeply once or twice a week, depending on weather conditions, is generally sufficient. Avoid overwatering, as excessive moisture can lead to root rot and other issues.

  2. Weed control: As the corn seedlings emerge, it is crucial to keep the area weed-free. Weeds compete with corn plants for nutrients, water, and sunlight, which can adversely affect their growth. Regularly inspect the planting area and remove any weeds by hand or with the help of a hoe, being careful not to damage the delicate corn seedlings.

  3. Fertilization: Corn is a nutrient-hungry plant, so providing adequate fertilization is important for optimal growth and productivity. Before planting, incorporate a balanced fertilizer or compost into the soil to improve its nutrient content. Additionally, you may need to apply side-dressings of nitrogen-rich fertilizer when the corn plants reach a certain height or when they show signs of nutrient deficiency.

  4. Pest and disease management: Corn may be susceptible to a range of pests and diseases, such as corn borers, aphids, and fungal infections. Monitor your corn plants regularly for any signs of damage or infestation. If necessary, use organic pest control methods or consult with local agricultural extension services for guidance on managing specific pests or diseases.

  5. Thinning the seedlings: As the corn seedlings grow, they may become overcrowded, which can impede their growth and productivity. Thinning the seedlings involves removing some of the weaker or excess plants to create proper spacing. Thin the seedlings when they are around 6-8 inches tall, leaving the strongest and healthiest plants at the desired spacing within each row.

Watering And Irrigation Techniques

Watering is a critical aspect of growing corn, as it directly affects the germination, growth, and overall health of the plants. Here are some essential watering and irrigation techniques to keep in mind:

  1. Timing: Water your corn plants early in the morning or late in the evening when evaporation rates are low. Avoid watering during the hottest part of the day, as this can lead to rapid moisture loss and may even scorch the leaves.

  2. Deep watering: Instead of frequent shallow watering, it is important to encourage deep root growth by providing thorough and deep watering. Aim to moisten the soil to a depth of at least 6-8 inches each time you water. This will encourage the corn roots to grow deeper, making them more resilient to drought conditions.

  3. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or wood chips, around the base of the corn plants. Mulching helps to retain moisture in the soil, reduce weed growth, and regulate soil temperature. It also prevents soil erosion and protects the roots from extreme temperature fluctuations.

  4. Drip irrigation: Consider using drip irrigation systems for efficient and targeted watering. Drip irrigation delivers water directly to the root zone of the plants, minimizing water loss through evaporation and ensuring that the corn plants receive a steady supply of water. This method of irrigation is especially useful in areas with limited water availability or for large-scale corn production.

  5. Rainwater harvesting: If possible, collect and store rainwater for irrigation purposes. Rainwater is free from chemicals and additives, making it an excellent natural water source for your corn plants. Install rain barrels or other water collection systems to gather and conserve rainwater.

Planting corn by hand can be a rewarding and practical approach for growing this staple crop. By following the step-by-step guide provided in this article, as well as providing proper care and attention to your corn plants, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of fresh corn. Remember to select high-quality seeds, prepare the soil adequately, provide sufficient water and nutrients, and monitor for pests and diseases. With patience and dedication, you will be able to successfully plant corn by hand and reap the benefits of this versatile crop. Happy planting!

Fertilizer Application And Nutrient Management

Corn is one of the most widely grown crops around the world due to its versatility and nutrition value. Planting corn by hand is a traditional and effective method for small-scale farmers and backyard gardeners. While larger farms may rely on machinery for planting, hand planting allows for greater precision and control over the planting process.

Before planting corn, it is important to ensure that the soil is adequately prepared and nutrient-rich. Corn requires a well-drained soil with a pH level between 5.8 and 7.0. Start by testing the soil to determine its fertility and pH level. This can be done using a soil testing kit or by sending a sample to a local agricultural laboratory.

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Based on the soil test results, you can determine the appropriate amount of fertilizer to apply. Corn requires nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) in significant amounts. The nitrogen helps with leaf and stalk development, phosphorus aids in root development, and potassium promotes overall plant health.

Once you have determined the fertilizer requirements, you can apply it to the soil. To evenly distribute the fertilizer, create furrows or trenches along the planting rows. The furrows should be approximately 6-8 inches deep and spaced about 30 inches apart. Apply the fertilizer in the furrows according to the recommendations from the soil test, ensuring that it is evenly spread. After applying the fertilizer, cover it with a layer of soil to prevent leaching.

In addition to fertilizer, organic matter can also be added to improve soil health and fertility. Composted manure or well-rotted organic matter such as compost can be incorporated into the soil prior to planting corn.

Weed Control And Prevention

Weeds can compete with corn for nutrients, water, and sunlight, which can result in reduced crop yields. Therefore, it is essential to implement effective weed control measures during the corn planting process.

One of the first steps in weed control is to clear the planting area of any existing weeds or vegetation. This can be done by manually removing the weeds or by tilling the soil to uproot the vegetation. Ensure that the entire area is thoroughly cleared before proceeding with planting.

To prevent new weed growth, you can consider using mulch. Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as straw or grass clippings, around the corn plants. This will suppress weed growth by blocking sunlight and preventing weed seeds from germinating.

Another effective method of weed control is through the use of cover crops. Planted before the corn, cover crops can help smother weeds and add organic matter to the soil. Common cover crops for corn include buckwheat, rye, and clover. These cover crops can be tilled into the soil before planting the corn, providing added nutrients and reducing weed pressure.

Disease And Pest Management

Corn can be susceptible to various diseases and pests, which can impact both the quality and quantity of the crop. Proactive management and prevention are key to minimizing the impact of these potential threats.

Diseases such as corn smut, gray leaf spot, and common rust can be controlled through good cultural practices. These include planting disease-resistant corn varieties, providing adequate spacing between plants, and practicing crop rotation. Crop rotation involves planting corn in different areas each year to reduce the risk of disease buildup in the soil.

Insect pests, such as corn earworms and European corn borers, can cause significant damage to corn crops. To manage these pests, handpicking is one effective method. This involves physically removing the pests from the plants and crushing them. Regular scouting of the plants is necessary to identify the presence of pests and take appropriate action.

In some cases, the use of organic insecticides may be necessary. These include insecticidal soaps, neem oil, and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) products. However, it is important to carefully follow the instructions on the product label and use them only as a last resort when other pest control measures have failed.

Harvesting And Storing Corn

Harvesting corn at the optimal time is crucial for achieving the best yield and quality. The timing of harvest largely depends on the type of corn being grown, whether it is dent corn, sweet corn, or popcorn. Dent corn, which is often used for animal feed or processing, is harvested when the kernels have dried and hardened. Sweet corn, on the other hand, is harvested when the kernels are fully developed but still in the milky stage. Popcorn is harvested when the kernels have dried completely and can be easily popped.

To harvest corn by hand, grasp the stalk firmly and pull it downward until it detaches from the plant. Avoid pulling too hard, as this can uproot nearby plants or damage the stalks. Once the corn is harvested, remove the husks and silk from the ears, and inspect them for any signs of damage or disease. Discard any damaged ears and store the healthy ones.

When storing corn, it is important to ensure proper drying and prevent moisture buildup, as this can lead to mold and spoilage. Hang the corn ears in a dry and well-ventilated area for several weeks to allow them to dry completely. Once the corn is dry, remove the kernels from the cobs using a knife or corn sheller. Store the kernels in airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags to protect them from pests and moisture.


Planting corn by hand can be a rewarding and practical method for small-scale farmers and gardeners. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can ensure successful corn cultivation from the initial soil preparation to harvesting and storing. Proper application of fertilizer, effective weed control measures, disease and pest management, and careful harvest and storage practices are all essential in achieving a healthy and abundant corn crop. Whether you are planting corn for personal consumption or for commercial purposes, hand planting allows for a closer connection to the land and a deeper understanding of the growing process. Happy planting!


How Deep Should I Plant Corn Seeds?

Corn seeds should be planted 1-2 inches deep in the soil, with a spacing of 4-6 inches between each seed.

When Is The Best Time To Plant Corn By Hand?

The ideal time to plant corn is when the soil is warm and moist, usually in late spring or early summer.

How Should I Prepare The Soil For Planting Corn?

To prepare the soil, loosen it to a depth of 8-10 inches, remove any weeds or debris, and add organic matter or fertilizer if needed.

What Is The Recommended Method For Planting Corn By Hand?

The recommended method is to create a furrow or trench in the soil, place the seeds at the desired spacing, and cover them with soil.

How Often Should I Water Newly Planted Corn Seeds By Hand?

Water the seeds immediately after planting and then once per week, providing about 1 inch of water. Increase watering during dry spells and decrease if there is excessive rainfall.