What I'm planting this spring: Sweetcorn

21:52, Oct 24 2012

The last time I had home-grown sweetcorn, my head just about fell off with the flavour. It was so sweet; harvested in the morning, and on the barbecue by midday, and in my mouth by five minutes past. They say that you should have the pot boiling before heading out to the garden to harvest some corn, so that you capture and cook it in all its sweetest glory. As soon as it's picked, the sugars start to convert to starches; even the amount of time it takes to boil the water to cook it will waste valuable sweetness. 

I feel I'm really taking a punt growing sweetcorn here. I'm worried that it won't be hot enough - it needs soil temperature of 22 degrees celsius - and that the wind will knock it over. But I just feel compelled to try it out and give it a go. The worst that can happen is it doesn't work, and I can use the plot for peas or beans or a head start on my winter vegetables. But I'm optimistic I can grow corn as impressive as this picture on the left. 

The bed I'm planting them in is a new no-dig bed, made from layers of green and brown material including shredded prunings, seaweed, coffee grounds, compost, grass clippings and autumn leaves, that I've piled in there over the last couple of months. It's full of worms, and getting brown and crumbly as it all breaks down into soil. It's got plenty of nitrogen in it, so should be suitable for hungry sweetcorn. 

I'm planting nine plants per square metre, spaced about 30cm apart. Because male flowers, the bits that grow up the top and look like grass, need to pollinate the female flowers, which will turn into cobs, plants need to be set out in blocks rather than rows so that wind can play matchmaker. 

To get around the cold, I have my first seedlings in cloches - upside down plastic drawers, plastic milk bottles with the bottoms cut out, and other plastic contraptions to keep in the warmth. I'm going to put some black plastic around the soil and near the base of each plant to keep the soil warm and the birds out (they love to eat corn and corn seedlings). Also, as a precaution against the wind, I'll put a windbreak around it. 

Have you grown sweetcorn? Any advice?

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