Growing Sweet Corn and how you know when to harvest.

Sweet corn 'Butterscotch' best eaten just after it's picked
Sweet corn ‘Butterscotch F1’

Plant your sweet corn 2cm deep, in a frost-fee, well drained, fertile soil and sunny position in your allotment or garden. Ideally the pH should be around 6.0 – 6.5

I first soaked the dried corn seeds over night to allow them to absorb water. Then kept the corn in damp kitchen paper for a few days to see which were viable then selected the ones that had started to germinate.

Ideally your plants needs at least eight hours of sunlight a day.
To germinate the soil temperature should be about 60 degrees. You can start planting in pots in the greenhouse then transplanting the seedlings when the soil is warm enough.

Don’t mix up different varieties together as you’ll get cross pollination. Plant the same variety of corn in a block 30cm apart and rows about 60cm apart. The plants need to be close enough together to ensure wind pollination and to ensure they fertilise each other to produce corn on the cob.

Water well throughout the growing season and don’t let the sol dry out.
If our British weather ever gets too hot, water more frequently. The sweet corn will not grow well if it becomes to dry for long periods.

Milkly liquid indicates when the sweet corn is ripe

Milky liquid indicates when the sweet corn is ripe

The time to harvest your sweet corn is when the ‘silks’ are brown and dry and you can pierce the kernels with a finger nail. If the liquid is clear it’s not quite ripe. When you get a milky liquid then it’s the time to pick your corn on the cob by twisting the ears of corn which should snap off the main stem.
Sweet corn just picked

Peel the husks off before boiling your corn on the cob.

The best time to harvest your corn is in the cooler hours of the morning.  Store them in cool temperatures, the cooler the better.

You will get the sweetest flavour if you eat your sweet corn on the cob as soon as possible. BBC prestenter Carol Klein suggests even taking a pan of boiling water to the plant and popping the cob in to the boiling water within seconds.
Boil for 6 minutes. Spread butter and a bit of salt to your taste. Delicious

The variety photographed is Butterscotch F1

Sweet corn mouse damage

Sweet corn mouse damage

Pests: Mice will eat your sweet corn as soon as they are ripe.

Photography Neil Bromhall. This blog is an extension to the Complete gardens planting advice CD-ROM

7 Responses to Growing Sweet Corn and how you know when to harvest.

  1. Kazz Rumble says:

    Not a comment but a sweetcorn query! I appear to have been quite successful with my first ever planting although cobs haven’t been harvested yet as the silks are not totally brown. My sister in Canada has remarked that for the cobs to mature properly detasselling is required – is that correct and how exactly should it be carried out? Would hate to lose my small crop through lack of detasselling!!!

    • Frank Tabbert says:

      I just read an article about corn detasseling. In the corn growing area of Kent county in Ontario Canada they detassle the male plants of seed corn. This corn is used for seeds elsewhere. Sweet corn does NOT require detassling

  2. says:

    This is the first time I have ever tried to grow sweet corn. The husks are turning brown, and I heard that when they do I should pick them off the stem. I am hesitating because the corn does not seem to be very big. Some are only about 6 inches long. Does that matter or should I leave them on there longer to get bigger? I am torn, afraid, if I leave them they will go bad, and if I don’t they won’t be ready! What should I do please help!

  3. Spot on with this write-up, I actually feel this website needs far more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the advice!

  4. Ron Clark says:

    Best way to cook your corn: leave it in the husk, heat your oven to 400f, and roast excatly 40 minutes. Boiling takes away a lot of the flavor and nutrients you are looking for!

  5. Ron says:

    ALWAYS leave the husk on no matter how you cook…..the silk comes off with the husk leaving nothing behind. No boring tedious picking off the silk….it ALL comes off with the husk. After Microwaving, run cold water over the corn and husk to make it easier to handle and to achieve the process of a silk-less ear. Also, if you want sweeter tasting corn, soak the ears in a bucket of sugar water for about 2 hrs before cooking …you will be amazed! The best tasting corn I ever ate was either grilled with the husk on for (10 to 15 min) or Microwaved (3 1/2 min per ear of corn) I was raised on a farm in Oregon and every year we put in almost an acre of garden, growing every kind of vegetable you could think of. My mother canned it all! Oh, for those of you who are skeptic, my mother used her wood stove to cook those ears of corn and never wrapped them in anything but their own husk, way before any Microwave or grill was invented. Happy gardening and good eating!

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