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Growing sweet corn

Sweet corn
Paula with a bumper crop of sweet corn

You've never tasted real corn until you've tasted home grown corn. The cobs from the shop, or worse the frozen corn from the supermarket, truly pales in comparison to fresh home grown corn on the cob. I never knew this until I first grew corn. Sure I used to like corn but now I'm head over heals in love with sweet corn.

We find it amazing when seeds a quarter the size of your thumbnail grow to over 6 feet in literally a little over two months. And when you see the silks and the cobs following shortly afterwards you wait in eager anticipation for scrumptious corn on your dinner plate.

Growing conditions

  • Sweet corn is a warm weather crop, getting it's best results during spring and summer regardless of your climate.

  • They love sunny well drained beds.

  • Always sow your corn seed in heavily fertilized beds. Dig in as much manure and compost you can get your hands on, leaving it for a week or two to simmer down.

  • In a 4 bed rotation system try to grow your corn in the same bed as pumpkins. They love each other and grow strongly together as companions.

Garden care

  • While you can sow sweet corn in seed raising mix for transplanting, we've always stuck with directly sowing corn into their beds.

  • Mix a good amount of potash into the soil when sowing to encourage good flowering.

  • Sweet corn is wind pollinated so plant in blocks instead of rows.

  • Keep the water up to the plants because they will quickly grow. Give corn a liquid manure fertilizer after the male flower and female silks appear, and every fortnight after.

  • When it comes to pests we often used to get cobs with no kernels. Then we found out about corn ear worm. They look like caterpillars and can easily destroy your harvest. When the female silks of the corn appear spray them with Bt (Bacillus Thuringienis var. Kurstaki). Reapply weekly or if it rains.

Harvest time

  • There are a number of tell tale signs one when to harvest your cobs:

  • Harvest the ears 18 to 21 days after the silk first appears.

  • The female silk goes from pale yellow to dark brown.

  • The angle of the cob changes from being straight to around 30 degrees from the stalk.

  • And finally you can peel back the husks for a peak. If the kernels look juicy stick a thumb nail in. The kernel should ooze a milky substance - ready for harvesting!

  • Grab the stalk and pull the cob down. You'll hear the cob break away from the stalk.

  • Sweet corn's sugar will convert to starches once its picked. Make sure you have a pot of boiling water ready to maximise flavour. Otherwise put the ears in a bowl of ice and cold water to lock in the sweetness.

  • Once your corn plants turn yellow things are starting to die (it happens fast). So quickly harvest the remaining cobs. Some will be underdeveloped and useless. The others might be picked in the nick of time.

Last Updated 17 November, 2008

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