Newest Review: ... position when they are approximately 20-25cm tall which they will reach even in the small confinement of a cell tray. Sweetcorn don't ... more
Sweet, Sweet, Sweetcorn
Member Name: Niall85
Advantages: Easy to grow, cheap, little maintaining needed other than watering, tastes great, space effective
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.
Summary: Grow it! You won't be disappointed.