This week, we’ve been harvesting the first of the sweetcorn crop.
With no beds built for veg built at the new house in time for summer, growing has been greatly reduced, but I couldn’t resist using a small parcel of the garden behind the old greenhouse for a block of sweetcorn.
Sweetcorn plants do take up a lot of space, so if your growing area is limited you might not necessarily want to fill it with big, dominating sweetcorn plants. Each one will only produce 2-3 cobs and with good quality, local cobs found very cheaply in greengrocers this time of year, sweetcorn isn’t a bang for buck veg.
Fresh, homegrown sweetcorn tastes truly amazing, and even if you only find space for a few plants, I’d definitely recommend growing this gorgeous treat. It won’t save you much money, but sweetcorn is a real prestige crop.
It took me a few seasons to nail sweetcorn, but once I did I vowed to always find room on the plot for this cracker of a vegetable. Here are 6 tips for growing sweetcorn I’ve picked up.
Sow indoors during April and May. I sow the seeds in little pots of multipurpose compost, ready for planting out later on. Put in three seeds per pot to increase germination chances, and pick out any that you don’t need.
Once the plants reach 6-8 inches tall, get ready to plant them out. They will require a period of hardening off (what is hardening off? – click), so don’t rush to get the plants into the beds. Make sure the last frosts have passed too.
Plant out in a sunny but sheltered spot in blocks, about 50cm apart. Sweetcorn is a wind-pollinated plant so the plants need to be close together so that the pollen can make its way between male and female flowers.
Sweetcorn prefers reasonably rich and fertile soil, so make sure the plants are planted in something that has recently been manured or improved with a soil enhancer such as garden compost.
Sweetcorn is pretty good in dry weather and doesn’t complain if not watered too much. Once a week should be fine, but consider an extra water a week if conditions are extra dry. Water well when the plants are flowering.
The sugar in sweetcorn starts to go starchy as soon as cobs are picked, so sweetcorn is definitely a crop to eat as soon as you can to ensure the best possible taste. Check for ripeness by peeling back the outer skin (husk), and scratching at the cob. If the juice is clear, the sweetcorn isn’t ready, but if it comes out milky, harvest time is here.
For maximum deliciousness, I’d recommend firing up the barbecue and taking your cobs straight from plant to barbie to plate. The result is genuinely amazing.
The cobs can also be boiled and eaten with melted butter, and my half American wife also introduced me to sweetcorn drizzled with maple syrup as a dessert…
I like Swift, an easy to grow, early ripening F1 variety that has a high sugar content so perfect for fellow sweet toothers. Those with poorer soils might want to consider Mirai.