The Easiest way to grow Sweetcorn in the UK. That sounds like a definitive statement, that’s because it is. I have tried many different ways to grow sweetcorn and this is by far my most successful.
How To Grow Sweetcorn
When I started growing vegetables I was advised by many “experts” not to waste my time with sweetcorn as it needed longer, hotter summers than we get in the UK. I spent my formative years as a greengrocer and throughout late Summer and early Autumn I used to sell British grown sweetcorn, Which tasted incredibly sweet so as soon as I could I started experimenting with how to grow sweetcorn.
Sweetcorn Growing Techniques
I tried many techniques ranging from direct sowing to individual paper pots. Using these various methods, I had mixed results and so over the years I have developed the most successful system for growing and producing great tasting, healthy sweetcorn.
Basic Hints For Growing Sweetcorn
As with growing all plants the secret to growing Sweetcorn is … The soil. Start in late Winter or early Spring by preparing the area as you would any seed bed. Then add plenty of compost or well rotted manure. Clear all weeds and keep clear until it’s time to plant out your corn plants.
Best Results For Growing Sweetcorn
For best results, in April take a large pot and sow 6 seeds in a circle around the pot about twice as deep as the size of the seed. Water well and place in a unheated greenhouse and in about 10-14 days you will see grass like plants starting to appear.
Keep pots moist and as April turns to May start hardening off your plants by placing them outside during daylight hours and returning to the greenhouse at dusk.
When To Plant Out
Plant Sweetcorn out after all threat of frost has passed. In Essex where I am, that is usually the end of May (check your local area).
How To Plant Sweetcorn
Sweetcorn pollinates by wind pollination so the plants need to be planted in blocks not rows. Depending how many plants you have, plant either 3×3, 4×4 and so on allowing 12 inches between plants. Sweetcorn grows to around 6 feet high so either stake with canes or bank up the soil around stem of the plants as they grow to protect from wind damage. Once the plants have formed corns feed with comfrey tea or tomato food.
How To Pollinate Sweetcorn
Sweetcorn is wind pollinated, but you can help it along by gently shaking the plants by hand to help release the pollen from the top of the plant onto the corn cob tassels lower down. The corn is ready to pick once the silky tassels go dark brown. Just twist the corn away from the plant or cut with secateurs.
Speed Is Of The Essence
As soon as the sweetcorn is picked it should be consumed. The sugar in sweetcorn starts converting to starch almost immediately so the sooner it is eaten the sweeter it will be. Boil a pan of water and add the sweetcorn once the water is boiling. Boil for no longer than 2 minutes to keep the corn soft and sweet.
A happy sweetcorn plant will produce 2 heads of corn but don’t be disappointed if you only get 1. From this you can roughly work out how many corn plants to grow for your needs.
The Indigenous American people used to grow what they called the 3 sisters, this entailed growing Sweetcorn with Squash, and Runner Beans. The beans were grown using the sweetcorn as bean supports and the squashes were used as ground cover.
There are other plants that can be planted around sweetcorn including fast growing crops like lettuce, radishes and rocket.