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Sweetcorn is one of the easiest to grow vegetable fruits out there which many people wouldn't think. The plants can be grown in a variety of places to suit people with small, large or no garden at all. It is cheap to grow, fun to grow and in the end works out cheaper than going out to a supermarket and buying it. This is my 4th year in a row growing Sweetcorn and I don't intend on ever stopping because it has never let me down!
Sweetcorn seed is cheap when sourced right. If you go for a "packeted" variety (by that I mean Suttons, Thompson and Morgan seeds etc) then you will end up paying between £2-£3 for around 30-50 seeds. At this time of year (right now! (August)) you will find many garden centres have reduced seed packets many of which are around half price. Never be put off by the date on the packet that says "Sow By" because you could probably sow 50 year old seed and have it germinate as long as it doesn't get damp. On Ebay right now there are a multitude of sellers selling cheap seeds and Sweetcorn is no exception - looking at what's on there now you can pick up 30-50 seeds for as little as 99p.
There are many different varieties of Sweetcorn so when you buy the seed ensure you are getting the right seed for you. There are super sweet, extra tender sweet and standard varieties as well as baby corn varieties if you want miniature cobs.
Sweetcorn originated from a warm-hot climate so it is no surprise that it grows best in warmer conditions. Don't let the great British summers put you off because it will still thrive at around 12-15 degrees but just grow a little slower.
Final growing positions should be a sunny spot that is not going to catch too much wind.
I have always started Sweetcorn off in pots and then transplanted outside when large enough. The previous 3 years I grew it, I transplanted into the ground and this year for the first time I am using raised beds in my new house which have done the job perfectly.
If you have no ground in which to plant, Sweetcorn can be grown in pots on a patio or using Potato bags (which I find useful for growing lots of veg, apart from Potatoes!). They grow upwards and have very little spread around them so do not take up too much space.
Companion plants - Sweetcorn are known as a companion plant because when tall enough you can grow runner beans up the stems using them as canes. This makes great use of space if you have a small garden or are using pots. I'd recommend sowing bean seeds directly beneath the corn as soon as the actual fruits start to form (beans grow fast and you don't want to start them off if the corn plant isn't large enough to cope with the beans).
I would recommend sowing seeds into the trays that have individual cells. I use John Innes No 1 seed compost and fill the trays up and then put the seed pretty much dead centre in the cell about an inch or so deep. It is also beneficial to use these cell trays because rather than sowing all the seed at once and it maturing at the same time, you can stagger the sowings to say 4-6 seeds per 2 weeks, that way you aren't rushing to cook lots of meals utilising your sweetcorn all at the same time!
You can also sow sweetcorn in small pots and keep them indoors if space is an issue outside.
You should sow from mid spring to late spring/early summer at the latest. They need heat to germinate so you may need a propagator if you don't have a greenhouse or space indoors, I had to use some clear plastic propagator lids this year and the previous year due to the pretty cold Spring's we had (in fact, my seedlings were up this year whilst it was snowing!).
From late spring you can sow directly where they are going to grow but you risk them not maturing in time and getting hit by the cold of autumn.
I transplant my seedlings into their final position when they are approximately 20-25cm tall which they will reach even in the small confinement of a cell tray. Sweetcorn don't like their roots to be disturbed so be very careful when removing them and transplanting - if you use a cell tray then the plant should be easy to remove holding the stem and come out in one big lump which you simply lower into a ready made hole in its final position.
Grow sweetcorn in blocks, not rows - I have mine in a 5 by 5 formation this year. This is because they are wind pollinated and rely on each other to be able to produce the fruit. Quite frequently one of the plants on the corner or end will not have any fruit at all because the direction of the wind carries the pollen onto all of the plants the one way and not back the other way.
About 4-6 weeks after transplanting the corn plant should produce a flower in the centre which sticks up quite significantly given time - this is the male part of the plant which carries the pollen. The female part of the plant are the fruits which form at the stem usually wedged between the stem and a large leaf - you will first see a lump developing and then the stringy silk will emerge from this lump. The pollen is caught by the silk and enables the fruit to develop, if it is pollinated well then you get a chunky corn filled cob, if not then results will be poor or non-existent.
When plants are young I do support them with small canes because the wind can make them bend over. Corn plants also have roots quite close to the surface of the soil so will bend at the base in strong winds.
If they have been transplanted and the weather is not looking too hot, I recommend using a plastic drinks bottle (preferably a 2 litre or larger) with the bottom cut off and placed over the plant. This helps keep the warmth in around the plant and with the plastic lid taken off also enables it to breathe. I have used these every year I have grown corn to help keep them warm and to establish (they also block the wind).
Sweetcorn need a lot of water so soak them when required. I feed the plants with a seaweed fertiliser once every two weeks which you apply using a watering can diluted with a cap full of feed. Results are noticeably a lot better from feeding compared to growing without feeding at all! I'm talking twice the size plant, twice as large cobs of corn.
Apparently the time between sowing and harvesting can be as little as 14 weeks up to 20 weeks. I sowed my seeds the first week of March under cover, it has been 20 weeks and I haven't harvested any yet (they are about 2 week s away from being ready). This is probably down to the period of sustained cold we had in the Spring when we had all of the snow, but I cannot remember a time when I harvested cobs any earlier than August each year I have grown them.
You know they are ready when the tassels on the cobs turn brown and start to shrivel up. You can test to see if it's ready without removing from the plant - peel back the green outer layers gently until you reveal some of the corn inside. If it is nice and yellow and contains milky fluid then they are ripe and ready to pick. If the liquid inside the corn is clear then it isn't ready and you can basically fold the outer layers back and leave it to mature some more.
Twist the cob to remove it from the plant, if you pull then you could damage the stem.
I have been told that nothing compares to corn if it is picked from the plant and cooked within the hour - something no one can experience unless you grow it yourself. I don't eat corn myself so I wouldn't know but this year we are going to barbecue ours on a nice summer afternoon (if one exists in August!).
When ripe it can keep on the plant for a good month so don't worry about being forced to pick it and store it away - the only worry is when the plant starts to die due to the colder temperatures at the end of September and beginning of October.
The average plant has between 1 and 3 cobs on it, like I say the occasional plant yields no cobs.
I am going to use my plants this year as a companion plant to grow up a black and white bean variety of seed made by the Eden Project. This is due to a lack of space in my vegetable garden which is taken up by a lot of potatoes and broccoli! Will have to review what I grow next year due to space constraints.
Why grow Sweetcorn?
Because nothing compares to eating it than eating it freshly picked off the plant. It is also easy to grow and is one of those plants that you can "make a profit" on. Cost of my 25 seeds was around a £1 which is the price you pay for a single cob from the supermarket. I will end up with around £50 cobs of corn for my £1 of seed, cost of the compost, cell trays and fertiliser adds up to around £3-£4 and are also used for other seeds, so you can see how much money you can save on your shopping by growing one simple vegetable. If you use the stems as canes then you save £££ by not having to buy any canes!
There is also something really nice about the feel of the plants...!
Thanks for reading, hope I have inspired or helped you and contact me with any questions.
I normally grow sweetcorn from plug plants, but theres no reason why you couldnt do it from seed. Sweetcorn need to be planted 30-40cm apart. If you buy plug plants then seperate them out and plant them in april-may. If you buy seeds then pop two in a hole, about 15mm down in april. You can get many different varieties, some of which will give one cob to a plant, other will give you 4. Make sure you keep them well watered, as this will make sure the cobs swell. They should be ready for harvest from july onwards. To check they are ready, leave the cob on the plant and peel back the casing, until you can see the kernel. Dig your nail into a kernel and if a milky liquid comes out then its ready for harvest, If not then just recover the cob with its casing and give it another week.
I just had a the best harvest of sweetcorn, down at my little allotment, that I've had in years! I feel so proud of myself, growing each plant from seed, nurturing it and watching grow into a tall forest of maize!
If you have a large garden or allotment, nothing could be easier to grow than sweetcorn. It is a very tall plant, known also as maize, and gives a really good yeild of beautiful cobs in late summer. The corn I grew this year had about three cobs per plant!
The seeds are the dried kernels of corn, and you plant these in early summer either directly into the ground, or in small plant pots, using a good compost. Sow the seeds about two inches deep and cover with the soil. I usually cover each with a jam jar. This keeps off any animal or bird that might did the seeds up (outdoors)and also protect from any late frosts. In the greenhouse or on the windowsill, the jar keeps in moisture to help the seed germinate.
In a few weeks the little plants start to come through and you can remove the jars. Keep the plants well watered, and when they are a few inches high you can transplant to where you want them to grow. Since sweetcorn is pollinated by the wind, you need to place them in blocks, rather than rows. This will help to get a good yield. Plant the sweetcorn about 18 inches apart and water well. Keep watering as they grow! They love the sun too, so make sure they are in an area of the garden that gets several hours a day.
When the plants reach about 6ft tall they start to grow the cobs down the sides. Each should have at least two, but sometimes you can get more. The cobs will swell and have a little tuft, like a beard at the end. As soon as this turns black it is time to harvest the cobs. Remove them, take off the outside husks and then cook and eat the corn!
You can either cook whole or take the kernals off with a sharp knife. They only take a few minutes in boiling water....don't overcook or the corn gets a bit tough.
Sweetcorn freezes really well, eithr whole or as kernals. You need to blanch it in boiling water for 3 minutes, then cool, pack in freezerbags then freeze. They keep for several months.
There are many different varieties of sweetcorn to try, and most good seed catalogues will have several on their lists.
This is great for children to grow, as it grows fast and usually kids love eating it!
Sweetcorn is a very easy vegetable to grow. You can start sowing indoors on a windowsill from mid march, and outdoors from May.
To sew indoors, I recommend using peat pots which you can transplant straight into the garden as this way you do not cause root disturbance. I would recommend planting one seed per large peat pot as the roots can get very widespread very quickly and need the space to grow. Place the pots on a sunny windowsill and in a few days you will start to see the seedlings. In May you can transplant them outside to the garden, either into the ground or into a deep pot or tub.
To sew outdoors, plant two seeds per station as you will need to pull out the weaker one and let the stronger one develop on. Plant in a sunny site, but try to avoid areas with strong wind and the seedlings will get shredded!
The packets of seed say to leave 30cm or more between plants, but I have planted them in a grid of 15cm gaps with no problems. Try not to plant them in a single row, plant them in a grid if you can as this aids with pollination.
Make sure you give the plants plenty of water as sweetcorn are thirsty! You do not need to add support to the plants as they have a strong enough stem to support themselves. They grow very quickly and get to over a metre tall. You will see that they will start to grow the cobs at the junctions between the stem and the leaves, and at the very top of the plant will be the arms that have the pollen on them.
To aid pollination, you can break off these arms and rub them over the fine hairs that will appear at the end of the cobs. The idea of planting in a grid is that when the wind shakes the pollen off the arms at the top and floats down, it has more chance of falling on a cob than if they were planted in a row.
When the hairs at the end of the cob turn brown and shrivelled the cob will be ready to eat. However it is also a good idea to pull away some of the casing of the cob just to check that it is ready, as I have pulled off a cob thinking it was ready but there was just the core of the cob and no corn!!
Once all the corn has been picked, you can let the plant die off. I had a hard time pulling mine out of the ground last year as the root system is very strong and the stalks of the plant are tough! I think perhaps it is better to wait for the plant to dry up and die completely before attempting removal....!
Overall I find this is one of the easiest plants to grow, and you get delicious fresh cobs that a not a patch on the days-old stuff you get from the supermarket.
Sweetcorn needs to be grown underglass. It can be either sown in individual pots - more root space and support for young plants, or in rows in peat free compost about 3 inches deep. The seeds need to be covered with about half an inch of compost. You can start sowing around now for plants ready to put out when the frosts have gone. If putting out before they need to be protected from frost with cloches. I have had success with the cheapest of seeds and cannot say that known seed growers come out best. The success unfortunately wholly relates to the weather! Once the seedlings have reached a handleable size they need to be transferred to well fertilised - with organic compost, soil in a sunny location. Space the plants about a foot apart in squares. This will help fertilisation if not using a F1 hybrid type seed. Keep well watered. Sweetcorn needs lots of water and sun to swell the corn. Harvest when ears are fat and full - usually around August- September. Wash well - earwigs and woodlice love sweetcorn especially if left too long in the ground to finish off ripening. There is nothing like freshly picked organic sweetcorn that is so tasty - especially grilled with lots of butter.