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Sweetcorn earlibird is an excellent early variety with strong emergence and vigour. Produces high quality cobs, typically 20-22cm in length. A supersweet hybrid with a possibility to produce 3 cobs per plant in ideal conditions.
The flavor and aroma of fresh sweet corn grown in a home garden is hard to beat. The stalks of corn even look pretty as they stand tall and majestic in the landscape, developing their tender ears of corn with silky blonde hair peeking out from under the shucks. Hard to imagine how all of this is grown from one tiny kernel of corn, but it is, and it’s very easy to do. Use these tips and successfully grow your own sweet corn from seeds.
Corn needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day, but a location that is in full sun all day will be the best planting location. Plant as far away from trees or tall shrubs as possible, since either of these will compete for soil moisture and nutrients in addition to potentially shading the corn stalks.
When to Plant
Sweet corn is a warm season vegetable, so don’t be in any hurry to plant the seeds in spring. If the corn kernels are planted too early, they will not germinate and rot in the too-cool soil. Wait until the soil temperature has reached 60-62 degrees when measured 3 inches down before planting sweet corn. A soil thermometer can be purchased at any garden supply center and will enable you to determine soil temperature and plant seeds at just the right time.
Sweet corn has a lot of growing to do in a very short time and will need plenty of nourishment to help it reach maturity. Prepare the soil to support the corn growth by tilling it to the depth of 10-12 inches, then lightly work in plenty of compost to feed the sweet corn and prevent soil compaction.
Sweet corn has very shallow roots and is unable to reach out far from its stalk base to find food and water, so it’s important to have a ready supply of food near the soil surface for the developing stalks of sweet corn.
After the soil has been tilled and compost worked in, lay off shallow trenches in rows that are 12 inches apart and 4 inches deep. If you plan to weed the garden with a tiller during growing season, space the rows farther apart to allow room for the tiller to pass through.
Place two corn kernels, these are the seeds, in a seed cell or small pot and cover the seeds with compost. The best time is to sow sweetcorn seeds is May inside to plant out later. If you sow direct outside, make a trench and place the seeds in there, rake 2 inches of soil over top of the seeds and water in well. Once the sweet corn has germinated and the stalks are 6 inches tall, gently rake another 2 inches of soil around the base of the stalk to help keep it upright during the growing season.
Sweet corn will only produce 2 ears of corn per stalk (occasionally just 1 and sometimes 3) and it will all ripen at the same time. If you want to extend your harvest season, don’t plant all your sweet corn seeds at the same time. Plant at 2 week intervals so you can enjoy its fresh goodness for several weeks at the end of summer.
A layer of organic mulch will be needed to help keep the shallow-growing sweet corn roots cool and help retain soil moisture. The mulch will also help prevent weed growth and as it decomposes will also help feed the plants. Straw, grass clippings, nut hulls and newspaper are good materials to use for mulch.
Food and Water
A regular water supply is needed to keep the soil moist and the fast-developing sweet corn well hydrated.
The initial application of compost worked into the soil will provide enough food for the corn crop, but you can add a side dressing of compost in mid-summer if desired.
Harvest ears of sweet corn when the blonde silks on the end of the ears turn brown and dry. A little bit of the shuck can be peeled back to check the ears too. Look for full, plump kernels that offer very little resistance when you poke a fingernail in them. Check daily when silks begin to dry because sweet corn can go from just right to too hard overnight.
Sweet Corn Varieties
Not all sweet corn is created the same. Color, texture, growing time, ear and stalk size can vary greatly between the species. Read the seed packet labels to determine the type that is right for your needs.
The tall, strong stalk of sweet corn makes perfect support system for the running vines of garden peas and green beans. Companion planting allows you to grow twice as much in the same garden space while each plant provides benefits to the other. Peas or beans will help keep the shall sweet corn root shaded and cool during the heat of day and the sweet corn stalks will keep the vines off the ground.