This is growing sweetcorn at Level Zero for absolute beginner gardeners. With a greenhouse, you can jumpstart sweetcorn seeds way back in October. With seed, you can start in November, but we will grow corn for the first few years with the most simple method, starting them in early December to experience success and learn basic essential skills. Let’s go.
STEP ONE: In Level Zero gardening,
we stick to the most basic methods and simple routines that can prepare the garden for anything we want to grow. Check them out here first.
LEVEL ZERO ESSENTIALS
🌿Sweetcorn plants are a type of grass.
🌿We eat the seedheads, called cobs
🌿Sweetcorn needs full sun, in summer, and is best planted together in a mob.
🌿Pick sweetcorn as you need it. They lose their sweetness quickly (a great reason to grow your own 👌)
nothing sweeter than home grown
Seedlings are your friend
Plant at least 24, all together in a block
Recognising when cobs are ripe
🌽In our Level Zero calendar, December (early Summer) is the month for sweetcorn seedlings because there is no frost, it works with our practical ‘one big planting job per month’ strategy, doesn’t require seedraising or greenhouses.
🌽Earlier planting routines to get a jump on the season might be something to consider later, but it isn’t a Level Zero skill.
🌽You can buy seedlings from nurseries or markets, swap with friends or by joining community garden groups.
🌽 Corn grows over a long season, anything from 2 to 3 ½ months. Be patient. It’s a case of slow, slow, wait, wait, wait, holy crap – corn everywhere – quick, quick!
🌽Sweetcorn need sun and grow tall – sometimes up to 2m, so if planting close to other crops, pay attention to the shadow they will cast. They can shade sun-senstive crops but locate behind short sunlovers, to avoid them hogging the light.
🌽 They are wind-pollinated; pollen from male flowers up high on tassels fall onto female silky strands that grow from the end of young cobs. Each strand is connected to a kernel inside, so to ensure the mix of windy pollen gets to all the strands, corn plants should be in a block of at least 24 plants, eg. 4 plants x 6 etc so that the pollen is captured by other plants and swirls around between them no matter which direction the wind is going.
Plant seedlings in a block, about 15-20 cm apart. As they grow taller, they will support each other to stay up straight. It’s good to add compost or pea straw between them at the base as they grow, to keep moisture in the ground – they like their water – and cover their stabilising feeder roots that grow out like a little teepee at the base. The nitrogen in the pea straw is also great extra food. NomNom.
We will do a special post later in the season on ripening, harvesting and storing corn, so don’t worry about that yet. In the meantime, you don’t need to fuss too much until they begin to grow their wheat-like male flowers at the top. That’s a sign that pollination is under way, and is the business end of a sweetcorn crop.
🌽Check in here in later summer for a harvest time update.
LEVEL-UP PLANT NERD JUICY DETAILS
Sweetcorn is a naturally occurring mutation of the maize grain plant in the grass (Poaceae) family that retards the process of conversion of sugar to starch within each endosperm, thus producing a sweet milky kernel flesh. These are annual herbaceous monocots with anemophilous inflorescence.
Look wide, grow well, folks.