How to grow sweetcorn

Growing sweetcorn
  • Corn should be planted in the New Moon phase because it’s considered a grass or a grain. Even though it has seeds, they’re on the outside of the fruit, not the inside like beans and tomatoes.
  • Corn likes warm soil and temperatures, so make sure all frosts are over before planting corn seedlings out.
  • Firstly, fork or spade through the existing soil using a washing machine action to aerate it. Then add plenty of compost, especially if your soil has clay in it. Rake the compost smooth over the bed.
  • Corn is a gross feeder and you can’t give it too much fertiliser. At this stage we add rock dust and chicken manure. We probably give corn double what you’d feed lettuce, for example. Using a fork or spade again and the washing machine action, mix the fertiliser through the soil. Then rake it all smooth.
  • Native American legend suggests corn should be planted on top of fish carcasses. When the corn gets to a metre tall, runner beans should be grown up them, using the corn as support for the beans. Then pumpkins (or squash) would be grown trailing over the ground to keep the soil cool. While this used to work with older varieties of corn, Rob says our modern cultivars require a lot of feeding which means the beans and pumpkins would compete for nutrients and the corn wouldn’t do so well.
  • Rob plants corn seedlings on the southern side of the bed about 40-50 cms apart. He sows seed on the northern side. This way the smaller plants aren’t shaded from the sun. The seedlings will be 2-3 weeks ahead of the seeds.
  • Make sure you buy untreated seeds eg Chieftain, Max. Even though these are hybridised varieties and not the old-fashioned ones, they’re as good as you can get for an organic garden.
  • Farmers and gardeners have been cultivating new plant varieties for thousands of years through selective breeding. They did this by cross-pollinating two different, but related plants over 6 to 10 plant generations, eventually creating a new plant variety. In the mid-nineteenth century, Darwin and Mendel discovered a method of controlled crossing that can create the desired traits in a plant within just one generation. This method produces what’s known as F1 hybrid seeds. The biggest disadvantage of hybrid seeds is that they don’t “reproduce true” in the second generation. This means if you save the seeds produced by F1 hybrid plants and plant them, the plant variety that will grow from those seeds (known as the second generation) may or may not share the desired traits you selected when creating the first generation hybrid seed.
  • Germination of corn seed is quite erratic, so Rob pops 3 seeds in close proximity to each other. Push them about 3 cms into the ground. If more than one seed germinates, he can thin them out. If you have left-over seed, date it and pop the packet into the fridge for next year.
  • Corn is wind-pollinated so it needs to be planted in a block and not in a single row. On a windy day, the pollen from the male tassles falls onto the female cob. If you ever see missing corn on a cob, that’s an indication it wasn’t well pollinated. There should be 2-3 cobs that develop from each plant.
  • Water in well and continue to keep bed evenly watered during the growing period. If ideal conditions prevail, the corn will be ready for eating in 6-8 weeks.
  • Cobs are ready to eat when the end becomes rounded, rather than pointy. It’s best to use this method rather than constantly peeling the leaves away and checking the corn, as it makes the cobs vulnerable to caterpillars.
Taking fruit off first season blueberry plants
  • Our blueberry plants, which we planted 10 weeks ago, have now set fruit. As this is only the first year of fruiting for these plants, we’re going to take most of it off, so that the energy that would go into fruit production goes into the roots and leaves and makes the plants stronger.


Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
Production equipment and post-production services provided by The Black Forest Breathes