Harvest corn when the ears are filled out and the silk has darkened.

How to Plant Sweet Corn in Hills

by Nannette Richford

Sweet corn (Zea mays) thrives in full sun in fertile, evenly moist, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. It grows to heights of 4 to 6 feet, depending on the cultivar, and typically produces one or two ears of corn per stalk. When harvested at the silking stage, baby corn can be used in stir-fries and is considered a delicacy. Mature corn makes delicious corn on the cob often served at summer barbecues or cookouts. Because corn is wind pollinated and the pollen from the tassel of the plant must be deposited on the silk, it is well suited to growing in hills to insure good pollination.

Till an area that receives direct sunlight for at least 6 to 8 hours a day to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. Amend with a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic matter, such as compost or manure and work it into the soil. This improves drainage and aeration and helps retain moisture.

Mark rows with twine and plant stakes, spaced 24 to 36 inches apart. If you intend to cultivate with a garden tiller, choose the wider row spacing. Do not mark the furrows for planting at this time, as you will be using the row for a guideline to create your hills in a straight line.

Trace small circles with the edge of the hoe, making circular furrows approximately 6 inches in diameter and spaced 24 to 36 inches apart along the row to make the hills. Soil may be mounded to make the hill raised above the soil level, if desired, but when referring to planting corn in "hills," the soil does not need to be mounded. The National Garden Association recommends planting the seeds in the traced furrow that forms the hill.

Plant 5 to 6 corn seeds in the furrow of the marked hill to a depth of 1 to 2 inches, using the shallower depth for heavy, clay soils and the deeper depth for light, sandy soils. Corn requires soil with a temperature of at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate. The Purdue University Department of Agriculture recommends planting corn 10 to 14 days after the last frost in your area.

Sprinkle a small handful of 5-10-10 fertilizer along the sides of the seeds, approximately 2 inches from the hill, and cover it with 1 to 1 1/2 inches of soil, says the National Garden Association. This allows nutrients to reach your corn plants without the risk of injuring seeds by direct contact with fertilizer.

Water your hills of corn seeds every 2 to 3 days for the first 2 to 3 weeks to encourage good germination and root growth.

Items you will need

  • Garden tiller
  • Organic matter
  • Twine
  • Garden stakes
  • Hoe
  • Fertilizer, 5-10-10


  • Thin seedlings to 2 to 3 of the healthiest plants per hill when they are 2 inches tall.

About the Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with more than four years' experience in online writing. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in teaching 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.

Photo Credits

  • Seiya Kawamoto/Lifesize/Getty Images