I think I love everything there is about sweetcorn: its golden-yellow nuggets ofseed, its luscious leaves, its cheery tassels-above and mop-head silks below... but most of all, of course, I love their sweet and juicy cobs, picked fresh and cooked straight away.
Having its origins in Mexico as far back as 7000BC, sweetcorn became an important crop in North America and was cultivated by the Native Americans. It arrived in Europe in the 16th century and was grown throughout Portugal, Spain, France and Italy. Over the years, sweetcorn has become an increasingly popular veg to grow in UK gardens and allotments, from heritage varieties, such as ‘Golden Bantam’ and ‘Stowell’s Evergreen’, to the many hybrid ‘F1’ varieties that are now available.
Sweetcorn will do well in a fertile, free-draining soil, so add plenty of organic matter as in homemade compost or manure in the autumn and also some general fertiliser such as Growmore or chicken pellets prior to planting.
As they are easy to handle, sweetcorn seeds are a delight to sow. As you want to develop a strong root system, start them off in pots about 12-15cm (5-6in) deep or use Rootrainers. The latter are great for sweetcorn as you can open up each cell when you’re ready to plant your seedlings out without disturbing the roots too much. Sow 2.5cm (1in) deep into multi-purpose compost April to May and water in. The seeds will need a temperature of around 18C (65F) to germinate so start them off undercover (indoors, in a cold frame, unheated greenhouse or polytunnel). You can sow them directly outdoors but then you are leaving them to the vagaries of the weather and pests – so this is something you really don’t need to do.
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