Grow Your Own

Sweetcorn

Sweetcorn is delicious and there are some new selections that are easier to grow in the UK. Mini sweetcorn is a good choice if you haven’t grown your own sweetcorn before – unlike the large sweetcorn, it doesn’t need to be grown in blocks – and you should get five or six cobs from each plant. The plants also make a good windbreak.

Sweetcorn on a plate

Grow

As the plants are wind pollinated they should be grown in blocks rather than rows, 45cm (18in) apart. Conversely, there are some mini sweet corn cultivars which are harvested before fertilisation, and so don't need to be grown in a block and can even be grown as a windbreak.

Grow sweet corn in a sheltered, sunny position, protected from strong wind, on any fertile garden soil. Add up to two bucketfuls of organic matter, such as rotted manure, and also rake in 100g per sq m (3oz per sq yd) of Growmore before planting. Plants are less successful on dry or heavy soil.

Mulch with organic matter, to conserve moisture and suppress weeds and mound soil over the roots, which appear at the base of the stems. Hoe carefully as they are shallow rooted.

Stake plants individually if they are tall or the location is exposed.
Water well in dry weather; this is vital when the plants are flowering. Tap the tops of the plants when the male flowers (tassels) open to help pollination; poor pollination results in sparsely filled cobs. Liquid feed when the cobs begin to swell.

Problems

Birds: Birds, especially pigeons, can cause an array of problems including eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables.

Remedy: Protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting or fleece. Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms work for a while, but the most reliable method of protection is to cover seedlings with horticultural fleece or mesh.

More info on Birds

Mice: These rodents will eat the seeds of sweetcorns when planted

Remedy: Place traps around the area where sweetcorn seeds are sown.

Slugs and snails: These feed on the young seedlings and you'll see the tell tale slime trail on the soil around your crop, as well as on the leaves.

Remedy: There are many ways to control slugs and snails, including beer traps, sawdust or eggshell barriers and copper tape.

More info on Slugs and snails

Harvesting

Test for ripeness when the tassels have turned chocolate brown - squeeze a grain between thumbnail and fingernail; if a watery liquid squirts out, it is unripe; if it is creamy, the cob is ready; if paste-like it is over-mature. Twist ripe cobs from the stem. They rapidly lose their flavour so have a pan of boiling water ready before you harvest, ready to plunge them in.

Varieties

‘Swift’ F1: (Extra tender sweet) One of the best varieties to choose for growing your own sweetcorn in the UK. Plenty of cobs.

‘Golden Giant’ AGM: (Supersweet) A vigorous main season variety with large, good quality cobs.

‘Earlibird' AGM: (Supersweet) Vigorous plants with good sized, uniform cobs. Early cropping.

‘Lark’ AGM: (Extra tender sweet) Early and high yielding with sweet, tender, top quality cobs.


Do now

  • Twist ripe cobs from the stem when ripe
  • Keep weed free
  • Water well

Month by month

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sow
Plant out
Harvest

Advertise here