Fresh, homegrown corn can be a tasty summer treat, but growing it can take a lot of time and gardening resources. Corn plants rely heavily on nitrogen to grow, and several applications of fertilizer, not just at planting but also during the growing season, may be necessary. The timing of these fertilizer applications is also critical to the growth and health of the corn plant.
o Fall application of rotted compost enriches the soil. Application of 12-12-12 fertilizer before spring planting ensures soil rich enough to support corn growth. Broadcast 3 to 4 lb. fertilizer and band through the soil every 100 square feet. A broadcast spreader scatters up to two-thirds of the fertilizer over the garden soil. It is then tilled 3 to 4 inches down. Banding spreads the remaining fertilizer to the sides and slightly under each furrow.
o Corn has a fairly long growing cycle, from spring through late summer. Therefore, corn plants will need side-dressings of nitrogen-rich fertilizer throughout their growing cycle. Side-dress the corn plants when they are 10 to 12 inches tall by applying 1 lb. ammonium nitrate (30-0-0) per 100 ft. row, keeping the fertilizer about 6 inches away from the plant base. Reapply the fertilizer about one week after the first tassels show.
o Sandy soils and a rainy season will impact how often corn plants need to be fertilized. Sandy soil has fewer nitrogen resources than other types of soils. Heavy rains will often wash away the fertilizer before it has a chance to mix in the soil and be absorbed by the corn plants. While some corn plants may survive these conditions without additional fertilizer side-dressings, the plants may succumb more easily to pests and diseases.
o Corn plants will show signs of nutrient deficiencies if they have not received and absorbed enough fertilizer due to poor soil conditions. A corn plant deficient in nitrogen will have soft, pale green leaves that bend easily and do not protect the plant well. Corn plants deficient in phosphorous will tend to have leaves that are purplish in color. Deficiencies can be rectified with side-dressings of the requisite fertilizer.