Stumpy Sweetcorn

I wasn’t sure if I should bother planting the sweetcorn plants out this year. For months I nurtured and tended to them in the greenhouse; providing an extra layer of glass to increase the temperature for successful germination, covering with fleece whenever the temperature dropped ridiculously low, watering, hardening them off and whipping them in again quickly (before they blew across to my neighbour). All in all, it’s been a bit of a battle to keep them going.

Delaying planting longer than I would’ve liked, I decided to take the plunge and plant them out anyway, the worst that could happen would be instant death, rotting (drowning in the rain) or a slow wind beaten death. The sweetcorn battled through the rain, storms and gales that repeatedly battered most of the UK, despite my concerns. Although I spared the plants the worst of the weather, a combination of factors including lack of time in the ground and low light levels, unsurprisingly, contributed to their lack of height. I refer to them as ‘stumpy’ (a little over 3 feet high).

Gardening, to me, is a continuous learning process. Much like a game. It’s all about planning each sown seed and enjoying the fruits of labour when it all comes together, but, in reality, each maneuver will face challenges. There will be success and failure, mother nature will work with you and against you, sometimes all at once. But that’s one of the reasons why I love growing my own food. I appreciate what’s on my dinner plate even more.

Plenty of cobs are forming on my stumpy, heroic sweetcorn. Some of them are a decent size too. I didn’t think it possible, but maybe, just maybe (fingers crossed), I’ll be biting into delicious sweetcorn cobs this year after all. And what a tough growing year it has been.

How to Grow Sweetcorn

I started sowing sweetcorn about a week ago using 4 inch pots inside the greenhouse, the seedlings are germinating well in this tropical heat that we are experiencing at the moment. All you need to keep sweetcorn happy until planted outside (wait until the last frosts are over) is a sunny windowsill, they love the heat but need plenty of space so I only sow one seed per pot. A top tip, don’t sow the seed too deep and avoid overwatering to prevent seed from rotting. Sweetcorn is one of my favourite vegetables to grow, not only because it tastes so much better than anything you can buy in the shops but it also adds a touch of beauty to the veg garden, rustling in the breeze, adding height and interest.

Sweetcorn is wind-pollinated so it’s best planted out in blocks rather than single rows. I usually plant a few blocks using 15 or 18 plants in short rows of 3, this way the plants are closer together which helps to ensure successful pollination of the silks. With this in mind I have sown quite a few seeds to allow for failures. It’s possible to grow a few plants in a large pot successfully but expect a low yield. Despite this, even if you only manage to pick one or two cobs, it’s totally worth the effort for the fresh and sweet taste.

However you decide to grow sweetcorn, cook the cobs as soon as they’re picked for the best flavour.