June 20, 2018

Grow your own delicious sweetcorn



Sweetcorn is amazingly easy to grow and the quality of the cobs grown at home is entirely different to even the freshest ones you can buy. It’s simple really – as soon as the cob is picked the sugars in the kernels start to be converted to starch, so  spoiling the flavour! Grow them at home and harvest to plate can be just a few minutes, sweetness preserved in all its deliciousness!

You can buy sweetcorn plants now or even raise your own plants from seed if you get your skates on – a heated propagator is perfect for getting the seeds germinating fast and the seedlings putting on height speedily.

There are lots of different varieties available and if you get the best ones, it can make a huge difference to the results.  The UK climate isn’t always perfect for crops which need a decent summer but if you choose an early cropping variety of sweetcorn, you can get good to brilliant results even in a grotty year. Some of my favourites include ‘Lark’, ‘Swift’, ‘EarlyBird’, ‘Early Xtra Sweet’ . A few years ago  I tried ‘Northern Extra Sweet’  – as its name suggests it really is the perfect choice for northern or cooler gardens, so no excuses!

Sweetcorn needs a really sunny spot but  the most important thing is that it needs to be grown in a block, not a row or as individual plants.  This is because it is wind pollinated so, by keeping the plants relatively up-close-and-personal to each other , say in a 4×4 block ,you should get really well-filled cobs developing. At the mention of 4×4=16 plants you’re probably thinking that you need masses of space, but I grow my sweetcorn in a 4×4 block measuring just about a square metre, a lot less space than the seed packet advises. Then, to make it even more space economic, I like to make good use of the ‘spare’ space between these rather upright plants. Once you have your block planted you’ll see the great opportunities for planting quick-maturing or small veg plants which  can be eaten long before the sweetcorn takes up all the space – try lettuce, mizuna, rocket, radishes, spinach or beetroot grown for salad leaves.  You could also go traditional and plant what’s called ‘Three Sisters’  a squash plant and some beans in the same square as the sweetcorn, allowing these crops to scramble over and between the sweetcorn……a delicious meal all in one square metre!

About The Author

Profile photo of Pippa

With a BSc in Botany and a further degree specializing in protecting plants from pests and diseases Pippa spent 11 years working for The Royal Horticultural Society at their garden in Wisley, advising gardeners about their gardening problems. More recently Pippa has become a well-loved and respected TV and Radio broadcaster and a prolific writer, with a host of best-selling gardening books to her name. Pippa regularly gives gardening talks and lectures, worked as the horticultural consultant for the ITV murder mystery series 'Rosemary and Thyme' and in 2007 was awarded an honorary Doctorate.

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    1. Profile photo of Pippa

      Hope you managed to get some in on time, and in a block! Don’t be surprised if the young plants look a little miserable and maybe yellow for a week or so after planting out…they will pick up and green up!

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