A much loved vegetable of children and adults alike, sweet corn is sweet and juicy making it perfect for BBQ gatherings, served steamed with butter or given a light fry on the BBQ plate…..yum. Best of all it’s not a difficult vegetable to grow.
How to plant
Sweet corn can be planted from late spring until early autumn throughout Australia and all year round in the tropics. Sweet corn can be purchased as seed of which there are many varieties, or seedlings which come in a limited range. It is important to bear in mind that only one variety of corn should be cultivated in the garden at any one time as cross-pollination can adversely affect the quality of your crop. Blocks of a dozen or more plants, grown at three-monthly intervals should provide a continual supply of food for the average family.
Where to plant
Blocks of sweet corn demand space, so plant them where they will not be crowded out by other species. They need deep, rich soil, and a sunny position in a wind-protected area. Sweet corn is one of the few vegetables that can tolerate boggy soil providing the site is in a hot position.
Dig the soil deep — at least 30cm — incorporating generous amounts of 5IN1 Organic Plant Food to promote lush growth. Sweet corn pollinate themselves more effectively if grown in blocks rather than in rows of plants. Sow the seed directly into the soil and water well. Always plant seed to the depth and spacing recommended on the packet. If planting out seedlings, make sure the root ball is anchored well into the soil. Keep moist and well- mulched.
How to maintain
Sweet corn demand a lot of water. However, it is important to keep the cobs dry as they mature, so water only the roots and avoid watering the foliage and developing cobs. As the tall stems develop they often produce roots above the ground. Build a layer of mulch up around these to prevent them from drying out. To make best use of the space taken up by a block of sweet corn,‘living mulch’ vegetables such as cucumbers and pumpkins can be planted between the corn and allowed to spread around them.
Pests and diseases
Watch for aphids, borers and caterpillars of the corn earworms in the tops of the cobs and spray with pyrethrum if the infestation is bad. Birds, bats and rodents can also attack the corn as it begins to ripen. If necessary, protect the cobs with individual bags.
As the corn ripens, the silk tassels which hang from the top of each cob turn dark brown. To test whether the corn is ripe enough to eat, peel back a small section of the papery casing and break open a kernel with your fingernail. If the liquid that comes out is clear the corn is not ripe; if it is milky it can be harvested immediately.