4 Uses For Corn Stalk After Harvest: Compost, Heating, Food, Decor

After harvesting your corn and enjoying delicious hot buttered cobs, you are left with a garden patch filled with unattractive corn stalks called stover. Stover should be removed from your patch so that you can clear the ground, fertilize it, and leave it to rest in preparation for the next planting season.

 After removing your stalks, don’t throw them away. There are many uses for corn stalks and we will discuss some of them here.

What to do with corn stalks after harvest?

After harvesting, corn stalks can be used to produce organic compost that can be mixed back into your soil. By burning corn stalks, you create an inexpensive method of heating your home. Corn stalks can be used to feed cattle, goats, and pigs. They also make attractive décor pieces when dried. 

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Your first thought may be to leave the stalks in the ground and wait for them to grow next year, but, unfortunately, this won’t happen.

Use Corn stalk as fertilizer

After rototilling your corn patch and cutting the stalks into small pieces, you have created natural fertilizer. The tilling process also mixes the pieces into the soil. This allows earthworms, beneficial bacteria, and microbes to break down the stalks into rich organic matter.

Corm stalks contain high amounts of strong fibers. If left untouched, the fibers in the stalks can take up to a year to break down fully. By mixing the cut stalks into the soil, moisture and natural bacteria will speed up this process. Depending on your climate, rainfall, and type of soil, the stalks dug into the soil should decompose fully within 2 to 3 months.

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This means that your corn patch will be ready for replanting in the new season.

You can also put stalks into your compost heap. Because they are dry and fibrous, they do take a long time to break down. Some preparation is needed to help the process along.

Make sure that you cut up the stalks into the smallest pieces possible. Shredding them is a great idea. Corn stalks are naturally dry, and dryness has a negative effect on the microbes that thrive in compost heaps. These microbes need moisture to live and multiply.

To overcome this problem, you should add wetter products to your compost heap. Use old tomatoes, lettuce leaves, old potatoes, vegetable peels, tea bags, leftover soups, and sauces. If you are cutting grass or trimming trees, add these too. These waste products help retain the moisture content and will offset the dryness of the corn stalks.

Corn stalks have an added value in your compost heap. The internal structure is filled with air pockets. This allows worms, bacteria, and molds to spread more easily through your compost, helping them to work faster and more effectively.

You can also use all the parts of your corn plant as mulch, including the stalks. Because the stalks are tougher and harder, some preparation will be needed to get the best use out of them.

Allow the stalks to dry out and then chop them into small pieces. Try to get them to the consistency of straw. Then dig them into the ground around your plants.

You can also spread them on the ground around your plant. Water well to add moisture into the soil. Adding nitrogen will speed up the mulching process.

You can do this naturally by adding coffee grounds, fish emulsion, or grass clippings into the mulch. You can also add purchased plant fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen. As the corn stalks decompose, valuable nutrients will sink into your soil.

Corn stalks to feed animals

Another great use for corn stalks is to offer them as animal feed. If you choose not to remove your corn stalks from your corn plantation, you can allow your cattle to graze in the fields. This helps your budget as you don’t have to pay for feed. Farm animals such as cows, pigs as well as rabbits happily feast on corn stalks, but keep in mind that wild animals such as raccoons and deer are also attracted by them.

After digesting the food, the cows produce manure that is extremely beneficial to creating nutrient-filled soil in readiness for the next planting season.

Pigs will feed on corn stalks. Pigs eat almost anything, so feeding them corn stalks is a great way to use them up and not pay for extra fodder.

If you keep rabbits as pets, you can feed them corn stalks. Do not use this as their primary diet, as the stalks will not provide all the nutrition they need.

Wild animals that eat cornstalks include deer and raccoons. This can be a problem as deer will invade your patch and destroy your crops before you harvest them.

Erecting barriers around your crop will prevent deer from getting in. Raccoons are harder to control as they can climb fences and barriers. To deter raccoons, you can spread blood meal or wood ashes around your plants.

Burning corn stalks for heat

In winter, the cost of heating an average home greatly increases your electricity bills. Using corn stalks in your fireplace works as well as wood and costs you nothing.

You need to ensure that your corn stalks are completely dry. After removing them from the ground, tie the stalks together into small bundles using twine.

Hang the bundles upside down in a cool, well-ventilated spot to dry out. A garage, closed patio, or garden shed is ideal.

The drying process will take a couple of weeks. If you live in a dry, sunny climate, you can leave the stalks to dry outside. This drying process will take around 5 days.

Corn stalks burn faster than wood. So you will need to take that into account when deciding on how much to dry out for your fireplace.

Another interesting product that makes use of corn for heating is a corn stove. A corn stove does not use the stalks but makes use of the kernels. Corn kernels contain oil and ethanol and burn cleaner than other fuels. If you have dry leftover kernels, they become a valuable heat source.

Use corn stalks for decorative purposes

If you are you are looking to create a rustic or autumnal seasonal look in your home, corn stalks make attractive decorative pieces. You will need to ensure that the stalks are completely dry so that you don’t introduce bugs and bacteria into your home.

Hang the stalks in a dry, cool, shaded spot. Basements are garages are ideal. Leave them to dry out for a couple of weeks. Once they are dried, you can tie a bunch of stalks together with a ribbon and use them as vertical accents. Shorter stalks look lovely in table vases or when placed into floor-standing pots.

If you have very tall stalks, tie a bundle together with rope and stand them at your front door or on your porch. To support the large stack, you can make a straw bale using smaller cut-up pieces of corn stalks. For fun, stand your stalks next to a scarecrow in your garden. Straw decorations are a must-have for the Fall season.

Corn stalks will last for the season and even longer if your climate is dry. To protect your stalks, you can paint them with a layer of clear craft varnish. They will then last for years. You also spray your corn stalks with different color spray paints to make them more attractive and increase the time that they last.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will corn stalks produce again next year?

Corn is an annual crop, not a perennial crop. This means that it will not grow again year after year. You need to replant corn every year to get a crop. After harvesting, the stalks can be removed to clear the ground. Your patch then should be fertilized and left to rest in preparation for next season’s planting.

Can you leave corn stalks in the ground?

There are two different thought processes on this question. On large farms where removing stover is an expensive task, farmers may decide to leave the stalks in the ground. However, they cannot be left in their current state as they will pose a problem when planting new crops. As a compromise, the stalks are cut down to a height of around 12 to 18 inches during the harvest. They then act as a barrier against soil erosion. The upright stalks also hold corn residue in place for faster decomposing.

For backyard farmers, it is better to remove the stalks and put them to good use elsewhere.

How to remove corn stalks from the garden?

You can physically remove the stalks by pulling them out of the ground. An easier and more effective method is to invest in a machine called a rototiller. A rototiller chops up the stalks and loosens the soil. For a backyard garden, choose a small machine with a cultivating width of 12 inches and a cultivating depth of 8 inches. Gas machines are easier to work with as you don’t have to worry about electric cables getting in your way. You will need to do two passes with your rototiller. The first pass cuts up the stalks into rough pieces and leaves them lying on the ground. The second pass chops the stalks into smaller pieces and mixes them into the soil.

Get creative with corn stalks and have fun!


Sam is an outdoor enthusiast, who loves spending time in the garden and learning about animals. His motivating forces are his wife and 5 beautiful children. When he doesn't get it right, he will go and try again!

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