How To Grow Sweetcorn
Growing sweetcorn has a high perceived worth amongst friends and family. Often it is seen as requiring a special skill, and mixed in with this is admiration and envy for the ‘professional allotmenter’.
The truth is that sweetcorn is one of the easiest vegetables to grow. Sweetcorn needs no special care, has a relatively short growing season and will thrive in the large majority of summers – it requires consistent warmth rather than plentiful sun.
The main decision when growing sweetcorn is choosing the right variety for your growing conditions. Sweetcorn comes in three main colours: yellow sweetcorn; white sweetcorn; and bi-colour that can be a mixture of white and yellow or even purple.
The colour is less important than differences in sweetness level. Again there are three main types: normal; sugar enhanced; and super sweet. In colder allotments it is better to grow ‘normal’ sweetness level varieties as the ‘super sweet’ varieties require a longer growing season and more heat.
It’s best to choose one variety to grow rather than a mixture as this will avoid accidental cross pollination.
How To Grow Sweetcorn – Sowing
I start my sweetcorn in grow trays in May. This is when spring has turned reliably warm and there is no further risk of frost. It’s possible to start earlier if you have a warm location to put your seed trays in.
If your seed trays are outdoors it’s worth remembering to cover them in some way – I have lost one sowing due to birds playing ‘treasure hunt’ digging for my sweetcorn seeds.
How To Grow Sweetcorn – Transplanting
I like to grow my sweetcorn through weedguard. There are a number of benefits to doing so. The fabric will keep the soil warmer. It will retain moisture which is important as sweetcorn does not enjoy dry soil and therefore needs regular watering, and it reduces the effort of weeding.
When transplanting sweetcorn I cut a cross into the fabric just large enough to enable me to make a hole in the soil to plant the seedling. Once I plant the seedling I give the soil a good firming and plenty of water. It is recommended to plant sweetcorn in a grid formation rather than a row as this maximises the chances of cross polination by the wind. I leave a spacing of about 30 centimetres between plants in all directions.
In the picture above it is possible to see the grid arrangement of sweetcorn. The smaller plants at the front are from later sowings to help spread the harvest period over a number of weeks.
How To Grow Sweetcorn – Care
Sweetcorn swaying in the breeze on a hot summer’s day is one of the joys of the season. Unfortunately, it is also a signal to the birds that a delicious meal is nearly ready for them. I have heard many stories from allotment neighbours of how their sweetcorn crop has been totally destroyed by birds.
The best and most reliable solution is a large net. I support the nets using long bean poles and repurposed clothes pegs. Sweetcorn typically ripens in late summer, and until the ears of corn have formed there is no need to protect them. This timing makes it possible to re-use any nets you may have used to protect your fruit earlier in the summer.
Sweetcorn is at it’s most delicious cooked and eaten as quickly as possible after being picked, as otherwise the natural sugars within the corn turn to starch. I stick my sweetcorn straight into a large pan of cold water. As soon as the water boils the sweetcorn is ready to eat. A real treat to end the summer with!
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