When to plant sweet corn in tennessee

Sweet corn is a warm-weather crop that thrives during Tennessee’s long summer growing season. By following a few simple guidelines, you can ensure your sweet corn plants produce an abundant harvest.

In Tennessee, the best time to plant sweet corn is typically late April or early May when the soil has warmed to at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If you wait until late May or early June, the soil may be too hot for seed germination. Planting in the right climate will ensure that the corn is well-established before the summer heat sets in.

However today we will cover the optimal planting times for sweet corn in different regions of Tennessee. Therefore provide a step-by-step process for planting, caring for, and harvesting your crop.

Planting Times by Region

1. Middle Tennessee:

The ideal sweet corn planting window for the Nashville and central Tennessee area is in late April to early May. Make your first planting around April 20th and continue planting in two-week intervals through mid-May for an extended harvest.

2. East Tennessee:

In the Knoxville area and counties further east, wait until early to mid-May for soil and air temperatures to warm up before sowing sweet corn seeds. Plant your first seeds around May 5th with additional plantings every 10-14 days through late May.

3. West Tennessee:

For regions near Memphis and the Mississippi border, the sweet spot is mid-May through early June. Plant your first seeds around May 15th and make follow-up plantings every 7-10 days to extend your harvest into July.

Factors to Consider When Planting Sweet Corn in Tennessee

Here are some key factors to consider when planting sweet corn in Tennessee:

  • Planting Date – Sweet corn should be planted after the last expected frost date, which is typically in mid-April for most of Tennessee. This allows the soil to warm up sufficiently.
  • Soil Type – Sweet corn grows best in fertile, well-draining soils. Avoid clay soils that do not drain well. Work compost or other organic matter into the soil before planting.
  • Row Spacing – Space rows 30-36 inches apart to allow for air circulation and weed control.
  • Planting Depth – Plant corn seeds 1-2 inches deep. Make sure to cover seeds fully with soil.
  • Seeding Rate – Plant seeds every 6-12 inches along the rows for a total of 3-4 seeds per foot. This ensures good pollination and ear fill out.
  • Variety Selection – Choose disease-resistant varieties suited for your area’s growing season length. Some good varieties for TN include ‘Kandy Korn’, ‘Silver Queen’, and ‘How Sweet It Is’.
  • Sunlight – Sweet corn needs at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day for best growth and ear development.
  • Watering – Provide 1-2 inches of water per week from rainfall or irrigation, especially during tasseling and silking.
  • Weed Control – Cultivate regularly to control weeds that compete for water and nutrients.
  • Pest Protection – Scout for corn earworms and treat if needed. Rotate crops to reduce disease and pest pressure.

The Planting Process

Now that you know when to plant, here is a step-by-step guide to successfully sowing your sweet corn crop:

Step 1: Till or spade your planting area to loosen the soil at least 3 weeks before planting. Sweet corn prefers organically rich, well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8.

Step 2: Use a garden hoe, rope, or plumb bob to make rows spaced 3-4 feet apart in your planting area. Rows should run north/south for optimal sun exposure.

Step 3: Sow seeds 1 inch deep and 8-12 inches apart in the rows, following recommended spacing on seed packages. Plant no more than 4-5 seeds per cluster.

Step 4: Lightly water seeds after planting to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Keep soil consistently moist until seedlings emerge.

Step 5: Once plants have 2-4 leaves, thin rows to the recommended 10-12 inches between plants for proper growth.

Step 6: Pull any weeds that sprout to avoid competition for water and nutrients. Keep a 3-foot radius around plants weed-free.

Step 7: Apply 2-3 inches of organic mulch-like straw between rows to conserve moisture after plants are established.

Ongoing Care

Once planted, focus on regular watering, weeding, and fertilizing your sweet corn crop:

  • Water deeply 1-2 inches per week, especially during flowering and ear development. Use drip irrigation if possible.
  • Fertilize monthly with a balanced organic fertilizer like compost tea or fish emulsion. Avoid nitrogen-heavy synthetics.
  • Control pests like Japanese beetles, corn earworms, and birds with row covers, traps, or natural sprays as needed.
  • Stake or trellis tall varieties for ear support and air circulation with continued growth.
  • Hand-pollinate if lonely plantings don’t receive adequate pollinators for optimal yields.


The key to harvesting sweet corn is picking it at the height of tenderness and sweetness:

  • Check ears daily once silks turn brown for ripening, which takes 18-24 days after pollination.
  • Gently peel back the outermost husk layer. Kernels should be plump and milky white or yellow with no spotted browning.
  • Slice or twist off ears close to the stalk using a sharp knife. Refrigerate promptly.
  • Enjoy your harvest within 1-2 days for maximum freshness! Additional crops may continue production through late July.


By following these guidelines for when and how to plant sweet corn in Tennessee, you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful harvest of some of the sweetest summer corn around. Let us know if you have any other questions!



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