Corn Spacing

jojotaterJanuary 23, 2006

Last year I planted Double Delicious corn one per square and got one good ear from almost every stalk--6 to 7 foot stalks. This year I'm going to plant Early Sunglow, and am thinking of planting it 4 per square. How many corn seeds do y'all plant per square foot? How do you fair with that spacing?

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username_5(banned for no reason)

In my limited experience 1 per square is about optimal. One every 10" is probably OK as well. Any tighter than that and there is a nutrient competition problem as corn is a heavy consumer of nitrogen. There has been discussion on this on the veggie forum and elsewhere and the overall concensus that I believe I observed is the rate of problems growing corn increases as close spacing does.

However, there is no harm in experiementing to find your own happy medium.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2006 at 12:11PM
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I was just taking a peak at the SFG forum as it was mentioned on another forum.

I have got a little bit of corn growing right now and I agree with Username 5- I have it spaced 1 per 1 foot.

HOWEVER, I just found an article that Mel did for Organic Gardening (Feb. 1996). Totally forgot about this article entitled 10 NEW SFG TIPS until I dug it out to use as reference. Number one thing mentioned is he changed the spacing on corn. He has 4 seeds in one square foot. He says you get 64 ears of corn in 4 square foot. Also says "you can up that harvest to an astonishig 128 ears if you choose Early Sunglow, which bears two ears per stalk."

He also relates how to build a portable wire cage to place over them to protect from critters.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2006 at 11:37AM
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oops, I typed the square footage wrong. He says in the article that you get 64 ears in 16 square feet (not 4).
You would get 16 in 4 square feet.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 11:19AM
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kaybradj(Portland, OR)

My former neighbour used to have the most fantastic corn. He sowed 3 kernels per hole. Any one eber tried this?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2006 at 2:27PM
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bindersbee(6a UT)

You can do 4 corn plants per square foot. I have that straight from the horse's mouth (Mel). In the new SFG book, there is a typo that says only one per sqft. However, I sat at a garden show and corrected page 196 to say '4' at Mel's direction.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2006 at 3:18PM
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I remember the "Organic Gardening" article, which I unfortunately no longer have. The spacing it described was for newer, smaller, varieties of corn. Most of the seed packets I see now say 8-12 inches for spacing instead of the former 12 inch spaces, and if they describe plant height it is usually around 4.5 feet, not the six to seven foot plants I remember from my youth (or, I should say, my later youth, after I reached my full adult height and the corn always used to be 4 to 16 inches taller than me) at 6 to 7 feet.

The plan in the article included smaller, shorter, corn, which could be kept in a cubic cage of 4 foot wide chicken wire which included a piece tied down tightly to cover the top, more than making up for any looses to yield from small plants and close spacing with reduced losses to the masked nocturnal bandits (racoons) and their friends... I finally found one of the few varieties that lists 6 inch spacing on the packet. (After looking at lots of packets in lots of places.) It is one called "Silver Queen."

    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 2:16PM
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With all due respect to Mel and his method (which I am using this year, btw). When it comes to corn, I figure the best source on the subject are the ones who know corn the best... the American indians.

Each tribe seemed to have it's own individual take on the best method. Most seemed to incorporate some variation on the "3 Sisters" combination (corn, beans & squash) which works very well in square foot gardening.

But, it seems that each square should have a small mound in them. Plant spacing should be 4 to 6 inches (which would be 2-3 plans per squre, I guess) with a number of seeds per hole. Once the corn gets 6" or so, I guess you could think them out to that spacing (although I know Mel frowns on thinning so I guess you could start them indoors and simply place 2-3 plants directly) then plant the bean seeds (the idea is to get 1-2 been plants per stalk so probably 2-4 bean seeds per stalk) and 1-2 squash plants per square (on opposite corners).

The Zuni would create 12x12 blocks (four 6x6 squares) and plant 5-8 seeds per hole (one per square) and let ALL of the corn grow in a clump. They'd surround each clump with the same number of bean seeds. Then one squash plant on each corner of the block and 2 in the middle (total of 6 for the 12x12 block).

Obviously, that would take up quite a bit of space for the typical SFG. So, probably not the best method for what we're doing here.

Naturally, space wasn't a major factor for the indians so they probably spaced things out further than they needed to. Plus, they walked between the plants wich is contrary to the SFG methocs. In general, I'd say 2-4 plants per square should be fine. More or less depending on whether you're companion planting with beans and squash.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2007 at 6:45AM
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chrislyn(z7 AL USA)

I don't know about the squash in the square foot, but the beans work. The corn acts like a trellis for the beans and the beans pull nitrogen from the air to feed the corn.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2007 at 12:31PM
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dixielib(z6/7 Ga)

Last year I spaced my corn one to one foot. I planted Silver Queen and got 2 to 4 ears per stalk. I am going to try the closer spacing this year and see what happens. My beds are 3 x 12' and I have 3 3 x 4 beds alloted for corn, planted at two week intervals. I made sure I shook the corn stalks to be sure they pollunated and for the most part had well filled out ears. I plant in straight mushroom compost. One wind storm bent several stalks but none were pulled out of the ground.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2007 at 4:22AM
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supposedly the squash acts like a ground cover. essentially a natural mulch. keeps the weeds down and helps the ground retain moisture.

Naturally, squash spreads quite a bit so you're not going to have one planted in every square. I kind of figured to plant one every 2 feet. So, probably 6 in a 4x4 plot.

How many bean vines did you have per stalk? I've heard 2-3 vines per stalk is fine.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2007 at 9:32AM
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jkirk3279(Z5 SW MI)

Here's an odd thought:

What if you planted taller varieties of corn, but deliberately snipped off the tops of all but two plants when the corn hits five feet in height?

The farms all around here do this routinely. I remember as a kid one of the jobs you could get was collecting tassles.

Does this force the plant to spend it's energy on kernel production rather than vertical height?

I've seen several times, if I don't plant my corn soon enough it gets to three feet tall and tassles out.

No ears at all. It's as if the plant is pre-programmed to either concentrate on kernel production OR reproduce by wind pollination.

So if the plant senses it's too late to get a good kernel development, it gives up on that and just spends it's efforts on pollen.

If you crop the tops of most of the corn, could you force the plant to develop bigger kernels?

    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 4:52PM
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Um, taking the tassels off corn is called detasseling, and is used by the seed corn farmers to create hybrids. Two types of corn are planted in the field, and the "female" corn is detassled such that the "males" would cross pollinate the "females" to create the desired hybrid seeds. The goal of detasseling is to inhibit self-pollinization - not a usual goal for the home gardener. :-)


    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 9:04AM
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jkirk3279(Z5 SW MI)

Yeah, I recall that part. I was going to keep a few plants with tassles to pollinate the others.

So at least we know detassling won't hurt the harvest.

There are tricks I've learned to push a harvest. Like root pruning tomatoes to hasten ripening on green tomatoes.

Maybe I'll try this to see if it helps.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 11:48PM
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tjinpgh: Hello , Thank you for the great information . Where do i learn more about this tipe of tecnics that American indians used in their veg gardens? I am really interested in new and better tecnics.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 1:38PM
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snibb(Salt Lake City)

I dont grow corn every year because it takes up so much space(an entire 4X4 in our gardens)and because it ends up being so cheap during the summer months. But, I always have planted 4 per square. Never had a problem, except that one year the wind blew it all over because the soil is so loose and friable. There is a fix for that though. We get at least one ear from each stalk, and then we might get a smaller ear a little later. I think I may have a picture of it on my site-which is still in the process of being put
maybe it will give you some ideas, maybe it wont...

    Bookmark   November 14, 2011 at 8:15PM
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I know this is late but I figure it would be helpful to future readers.
You can grow corn closer (I'm planting 4 per square foot). In rows it is very rarely spaced an entire foot apart. Ours was sometimes even touching and we always had large yielda growing up. But as far as them competing for nutrients, Mel's system will provide more then enough of everything except nitrogen. To fix that and head off many problems you can simply plant beans with the corn, making the most of your space. The beans will fix nitrogen in the soil keeping both plants happy even in close quarters.
I live in New Mexico and many farmers will plant corn and alfalfa together because alfalfa does the same thing as beans and fixs quite a bit of nitrogen in the soil while corn provides a fast growing annual cover crop for new fields.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 8:35PM
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I used a raised bed, not SFG block.
But I was told & believe that all corn needs to be 4 hills wide & 4 hills deep to make good corn.
If you have great wind or air flow, you may do okay.
I put my corn for 3 sisters, 6 inches on center & got 1 or 2 ear per stalk.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2012 at 9:05PM
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Been out in the yard trying to reclaim the sq ft area that I let get away from me last year.

Came here looking for ideas for this year and saw this post.

4 stalks per sq works. Corn is a heavy feeder so that needs to be tended to.

I had read that it can blow it over easier in the beds so here is what I did.

The pic below is a 4x8 bed. On either end of my beds I have 6 ft trellises for pole beans ( as seen in the background) and such. I planted corn 4/sq in 24 of the squares and a cucumber in each sq ( 4) on the ends of the bed.

I ran twine down the sides for support and the cukes mingled into the stalks helping to tie them to the rebar trellises.

Right or wrong, it worked quite well ;)

    Bookmark   February 11, 2012 at 1:47PM
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beans will climb corn if they are not a bush variety and will pull the ears off the corn.

standard fertilization for corn is 1 bag of manure for
10 square foot.
mel gives 5 different spacings and advice for corn depending on the type of corn.

1981 book p31:
short early variety 4ft x 4ft 25 plants 25 ears
tall late variety 4ft x 4 ft 16 plants 16 ears
2005 book:
5-7 ft tall variety 4ft x 4ft 16 plants 16 ears
Organic Gardening (08973792), Feb96:
short varieties 4ft x4ft 64 plants 64 ears
short two ear varieties 64 plant 128 ears.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 9:54AM
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snibb(Salt Lake City)

dixie...did I read that right? 2-4 ears of corn per stalk? wow...I had over a hundred in my 4X4 one year where I planed 4 per square. I thought that was great but thats nowhere near as much as you got...

    Bookmark   February 12, 2012 at 7:58PM
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Right now I have Golden Bantam growing in Upper Santa Paula, Ca. It is 10.5 feet tall at the tassels. It is about 1foot apart in either direction. I used composted horse manure, compost, and stone dust from a river quarry. I also have "Delectable" from Johnny's at about 6 feet tall. Then I have Anasazi corn at about 6 feet tall. Also have Black Kuli corn at 11 feet tall. Then just at 2 inches I have Ashworth and Country Gentlemen. See photos

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 2:05PM
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