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!