The Best Kind of Fertilizer for Corn

If you are new to gardening, you may think that once you plant your corn, all you need to do is water it. While growing corn is not tricky, you have to provide more than just the basics for your plants to be healthy. Besides water and sun, corn also needs fertilizer to reach optimum health and produce a plentiful harvest.


What Kind of Fertilizer Do I Need?

Regardless whether you plant sweet corn or field corn, the plants still need an ample amount of nutrients to grow. Corn is called a heavy feeder, meaning the plants require more elements than some of the other common garden vegetables.

Depending on when you are applying the fertilizer, nitrogen-only organic fertilizer is the best way to ensure your plants thrive.

When Do I Apply Fertilizer?

Since corn is a heavy feeder, you will have to apply fertilizer more than once during the growing season.

Pre-Planting Fertilizer

Before you even put your corn seeds into the ground, you should work about three inches (eight cm) of organic compost into the soil. Leaves and manure are both excellent additives and will both improve the texture of your soil and add nutrients.

After working the compost into your soil, you should then apply an all-purpose fertilizer with an even distribution of the following elements:

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

Tip: Fertilizer labeled 12-12-12 has even amounts of each of the above nutrients.

Post-Planting Fertilizer

Once your young corn plants have developed eight to ten leaves or reaches approximately knee-high, a second application of fertilizer is needed. By this time, the plants have used up the nitrogen establishing a healthy root system and producing leaves. Instead of using an all-purpose fertilizer, you should apply a one that only contains nitrogen.

You should apply one final application of the nitrogen-only fertilizer once the corn ears have started to produce silk. Doing so will provide enough energy to carry the corn through until harvest.

Tip: Anytime you apply nutrients to your corn, be sure to water the plants.

Can I Overfertilize?

Although corn does require a significant amount of nitrogen, it is possible to apply too much. As long as you follow the directions exactly as written on the packaging, you should be safe from overfertilization. Too much nitrogen can cause your corn plants to become weaker instead of stronger. If you keep this in mind and only apply fertilizer when directed, your reward will be healthy plants that produce plenty of corn.