Growing a bumper harvest of sweet corn is not as difficult as you think. You have to learn the basics of sowing, planting, and nurturing the corn stalks, and you’ll be left wondering why did take so late for your try. Once you’re peeling your own creamy and delicious homegrown corn cobs, you will be craving to grow more. Cultivate a sunshine harvest of mouth-watering cobs of sweet corn by following our golden rules on how to grow sweet corn.
Sugar-rich varieties maize are commonly known as sweet corn. These are the varieties that are usually grown for human consumption as kernels. While the field corn varieties are usually used for animal feed and other corn-based human food products. To know about how to grow sweet corn, keep scrolling down.
Growing Sweet Corn – Is It Easy?
Sweet corn has a reputation for being tricky to grow, but it is really an easy going and easy-growing plant. Growing sweet corn is easy. It boils down to understanding what the plants need to flourish: space, sunshine, pollination, and patience! Give these plants some room and time to reach their full potential, and you will be amazed at the results.
Many sweet corn varieties have been bred specifically for specific regions or climates, so keep this in mind as you mull over your options. Pick a type that suits your area and ground conditions, and you too will soon enjoy the sweet taste of success!
Which Sweet Corn is Best for Your Backyard?
You can try an early variety like ‘Northern Extra Sweet’ for a better sweet corn or maize harvest in cooler climates. You need to consider some of the vital things before you find out how to grow sweet corn. Sweet corn is a massive grass, and being a grass, it is wind-pollinated predominantly .
The ‘tassel’ or the male flower has to deposit its pollen on all the female pistils (the ‘silk’). This would enable the kernels swell successfully. If it doesn’t happen, there will be gaps in the resulting cobs.
Corn on the cob grows best in long and hot summers. However, there are several varieties which grow in cooler climates. So, if you have cooler climates then you must try a hybrid and start undercover. The ‘early’ kinds do well in colder regions. Gardeners in the north should choose an early-maturing F1 hybrid (‘Swift’, ‘Sundance’ or ‘Northern Extra Sweet’) for a better crop harvest.
If you want especially sweet cobs, choose a variety with ‘sugar’ or ‘sweet’ in the name. Super sweet types are sweeter and retain sweetness for extended periods. However, if you grow another variety nearby, it can affect the flavor due to cross-pollination.
Growing varieties such as baby ‘Minipop’ are a great option. These little cobs grow to about 4 inches in length and are excellent for stir-fries.
When to Grow Sweet Corn?
Grow early variety ‘Swift’ and mid and late types for a more plentiful harvest. If you want to stretch out your sweet corn harvests as much as possible, you must sow a mixture of early, mid, and late varieties (such as ‘Swift’, ‘Incredible’ and ‘Conqueror’) during months of late April and early May. If they are sown indoors, they will be ready to plant in June.
Alternatively, when you are learning how to grow sweet corn, you can try making staggered sowings of one variety at the intervals of three-weeks. Depending on the variety, you can sow as late as June if you wish. This effectively mean you can enjoy sweet and crunchy corn on the cob from August until October.
How to Deal with Sweet Corn Problems
Once you have learnt how to grow sweet corn and the seedlings are established, they can be some of the most easy going plants to grow in your backyard.
If you notice the lower leaves of sweetcorn turn yellow and die off. There could be deficiency of Nitrogen due to which the top of the leaves turn yellow. Nitrogen deficiency can be removed after adding some nitrogen-rich liquid feed.
Slugs and snails get easily attracted to the young corn plants. The trails of slugs and snails on the soil around the crop, and on the leaves will be easily visible. If the slugs and snails are left unchecked, they can destroy the group of plants within a week.
Your sweetcorn plants need tassels to ensure cropping. If they are not present, then it could be due to insufficient watering at a key time. Ensure that you water the plants frequently. You can do mulching around the plants with organic matter. It will help to regulate the water intake so the roots are kept nourished.
Five Sweet Corn Varieties to Try
Are you ready to try your hand at growing sweet corn? You can have a super-long, super sweet harvest with these nutritious sweet corns on the cob varieties:
Conqueror sweet corn
This variety matures slightly later in the season. It is ideal for extending the new harvest period if grown with an early type. This prize-winning tall and vigorous plant produces long cobs of the super sweet variety.
Early bird sweet corn
RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) helps gardeners choose the best plants for their garden. This super sweet variety won the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 2003. It’s one of the earliest super sweet varieties to mature. Cobs are at least 8 inches in length, and occasionally the plants produce three mature cobs each.
Lark sweet corn
It is an early, extra tender sweet variety with thin, tender skins and many sweet flavors. High yielding with cobs produced mid-season. It can tolerate cooler growing conditions. You must restrict plants to two cobs and expect a well-filled cob about 8 inches long.
Sparrow sweet corn
An excellent mid-season, extra-tender AGM sweetcorn was awarded in 2009. This variety often gives you two cobs per plant. The plant is shorter in height, so it’s ideal for more exposed sites. Individual kernels are slightly larger than usual. The average length of cobs is 9 inches.
Swift sweet corn
This variety is a popular, reliable, extra tender-sweet type. Plenty of cobs is about 9in (22cm) long and filled with straight cornrows. Well suited to the UK climate. Slightly shorter than average, so it withstands windy conditions well. Another AGM winner.
When to Harvest Sweet Corn
Knowing the best way to harvest sweet corn is a skill. It is as important as knowing how to grow sweet corn. The beauty of homegrown sweetcorn is its greatly improved sweetness – but make sure you eat it at its best.
You can check for ripeness by piercing one of the kernels with a fingernail to verify if the fluid is creamy. Best corn flakes are make from these.
You should check for ripeness at six weeks once the tassels become dark brown. Pierce a kernel with your nail and check for the fluid. If a clear liquid comes out, the corn is not yet ripe. You are good to if the juice is creamy. If the fluid is a paste-like substance means it is past its prime.
Once the corn is ready for harvest, twist the cob and pull quickly from the stem. The farm fresh corns are easily available in the local market. You can harvest any time from July to October. Eat it straight away to ensure the best freshness and sugar levels as the sugars start turning to starch when it is picked.
Where to Grow Sweet Corn
Grow sweet corn in the right place, where you get abundant sunshine. Corn plants are sun-lovers. Although certain varieties are just fine in partial shade (like ‘Earlybird’ and ‘Sparrow’), they just love the sun.
You must also pick a relatively sheltered spot and free-draining soil. Ensure the ground is fertile and enriched with well-rotted organic matter or lots of garden compost. Sweet corn plants struggle on heavy or dry soils.
Most importantly, sweet corn needs ample space to grow and reach its full potential. As it rely on wind pollination, the grouping of the plants is essential. You can ensure good pollination and well-filled cobs by planting them in blocks.
Sweet corn seeds are easily available from a wide range of suppliers. You can save your sweet corn plant seed as long as you have a suitable variety. You can keep seeds if your corn is an open-pollinated or the heirloom variety. They have been bred to reduce the risks of carrying forward negative traits. However, hybrid or the F1 seeds will not produce truly in the second year. This effectively means they won’t yield the same plants as the parent. To verify the package label to see if it says ‘OP’ for open-pollinated or F1 for a hybrid.
If you save sweet corn seed, leave the ‘seed’ corn on the plant for a month or longer than the rest of the crop and air-dry after harvest. Save the best seed from the plants having solid stalks, whole cobs, and disease resistance. After drying, you must store the seeds in an airtight container in a cool, dark spot and label it!. With all these details, you’ll be more than prepared on how to grow sweet corn and enjoy an excellent harvest year after year.