May Grow your own

Sadly, sweet corn is not the easiest crop to grow in the UK, but newer, more modern cultivars are better suited to our climates, making things far better.

Sweet corn must be grown in a sunny position that is sheltered from strong wind.

As the plants are wind pollinated they should be grown in blocks rather than rows setting the plants 45cm (18in) apart.

There are some mini sweet corn cultivars. Because mini corn is harvested before fertilisation, it doesn't need to be grown in a block and can even be grown as a windbreak! Each plant will produce five or six cobs.

Sowing

Sow at 18-21C (65-70F) from late March to early May in peat pots or deep pots at a depth of 2.5cm (1in).

In mild areas you can sow seed directly outside from mid- to late May in soil pre-warmed for two weeks with cloches or clear plastic. Sow two seeds 2.5cm (1in) deep 45cm (18in) apart in rows 45cm (18in) apart; remove the weakest seedling. Leave the cloches or plastic over the plants until they've grown and touch the top.

Growing

Plant out indoor-raised plants at the end of May or early June depending on the weather.

Stake tall cultivars or if the position is windy.

When roots appear at the base of the stem cover them over with soil.

Water well in dry weather; this is vital when the plants are flowering. Liquid feed when the cobs begin to swell.

Tap the tops of the plants when the male flowers (tassels) open to help pollination; poor pollination will result in poorly filled/irregularly filled cobs.

Supersweet cultivars mustn't be grown with other cultivars or cross-pollination will reduce the sweetness.

Harvesting

Test for ripeness when the tassels have turned chocolate brown; squeeze a grain between thumbnail and fingernail - if a watery liquid squirts out then it is unripe, if it is creamy the cob is ready. Twist the ripe cob from the stem.

Material courtesy of www.rhs.org.uk

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