Hot corn on the cob dripping with melted butter – no wonder sweet corn is a garden favourite – and a winner with families! Kids seem to love the sweet, juicy taste – no tantrums about eating dinner when corn’s on the menu!
You can sow sweet corn seeds when the weather warms up in spring, either in the garden or in seed trays which can be replanted. If you’re using the garden choose a sunny sheltered spot, and sow in blocks rather than in rows, to aid pollination.
Sweet corn needs a well-worked, fertile soil to thrive – apply compost or well-rotted manure to soil before planting, and keep well-watered through the warm months. Although corn grows happily in the heat of late summer, regular watering will produce sweeter, succulent cobs more quickly. A consistently moist soil is also necessary to produce fat, juicy cobs.
Stake and support your corn where necessary, and apply liquid fertiliser throughout the summer. Any highly nitrogenous fertiliser, such as fowl manure, cow manure, or blood and bone will help produce heavy crops – sweet corn needs heavy feeding to do well.
Mulching with seaweed, straw, newspaper, old carpet, grass clippings, or sawdust is also essential to the development of a good corn crop. Like tomatoes sweet corn produces aerial roots – if these can be fed (by mulching heavily) the crop yield will be greater.
The trick with growing your own sweet corn is to know when, and how, to harvest. Check the end of a corn cob, if it’s rounded or blunt rather than pointed, your corn ears are ready to harvest.
You can also tell when it’s harvest time by the colour of the corn silk or hairs, as they’re sometimes called. When this has turned brown, or when kernels inside are golden yellow, your corn is ready to eat. You can check this by carefully pulling back some of the husk. Then twist the ears away from the parent plant.
Sometimes you may find that your cob doesn’t have a lot of actual corn on each cob – this may be caused by a lack of water and/or nutrients during the development phase of corn.
Leave corn on the plant to ripen fully, and harvest by snapping cleanly at the base or by using a sharp knife – be careful not to break the plant in half when picking!
Most types of corn are ready to eat within 100 days – reliable varieties include ‘Honey and Pearl’, and Yates ‘Super-sweet’ and ‘Sun n Snow’, which produces cobs with yellow and white kernels. Kings Seeds also sell the cute and colourful ‘Strawberry’ – its red kernels are perfect for popcorn.