Zea mays

Is there anything sweeter than home grown corn? Corn on the cob, done on the barbie is a stunner, and adds some real height and interest to your Yummy Yard. Kids love corn, and I have seen some really creative gardeners make a “Maize Maze” and “Corn Corners” in their backyards, adding some magic kids spots to the patch.

Shop bought corn often leaves a lot to be desired. Corny jokes aside, growing your own sweet corn and saving the seed is a super sustainable species saver. So lets plant corn (Jack)!

Planting Schedule

Warm Areas: October
Temperate Areas: October
Cool to Cold Areas: End of October – November

Position, Position, Position!

Now, it really is all about position, position, position with these sweeties! They need full sun, no exceptions, and must have protection from strong winds (no-one likes a floppy corn!). Sweet corn are a friendly mob, and will do best when planted in a block style formation. This encourages better cross-pollination, which means more corn for you! The more corn you can fit in the better, and remember to allow about 40 – 50cm between plants.

Don’t fret about losing all your space, sweet corn are quite happy to be under planted once they grow up a bit. Try climbing beans or cucumbers… they are excellent companions, suppress weeds and you will seriously increase your productivity in your Yummy Yard.

Talking Dirty

The first thing that needs to be done when thinking about planting sweet corn is soil improvement! Loads of organic matter (you know, the good stuff like compost and aged manure), or try planting sweet corn after a green manure crop. Sweet corn will tolerate most deep, lush soils, but they hate clay! Oh, and, as with all Yummy Yards, mulch well with pea straw or similar after planting.

Feed Me!

Feeding sweet corn that has been planted into good, rich soil is not a huge issue. A wee drink of manure tea after establishment, and then an additional wee drink when you see the flowers should do the trick!

Sweet corn is dead easy to look after, but there are a couple of things you can do to ramp up productivity. One of my tried and trues with sweet corn is to pile up compost around the base of the stem. Called “hilling”, making mounds of compost about 15 – 20cm high will increase the amount and flavour of your sweet corn, and will keep the big buggers upright!

What about the Water?

Sweet corn, like me on the weekends, loves a good drink, and this can be an issue where water is scarce (like the whole of our wide brown land!!!). High amounts of organic matter and mulch in the patch will reduce the need for the precious wet stuff, but the key is not to let them dry out. Why not dedicate Monday, Wednesday and Fridays shower warm up water to the corn (only when required of course)? They’ll thank you for it, and you’ll get super buff carrying that bucket. As always, greywater is a no go!

Are We There Yet?

I get asked all the time by folks that grow corn, how they can tell when it’s ready. Two to three weeks after flowering, sweet corn is generally ready to be harvested. You’ll know when it’s flowering because the bloke flowers look like wheat. Sweet corn is good to go when the little tassely bits at the top of the cob are brown and shriveled, the husks are no longer glossy and the corn kernels ooze a milky sap when you jab it with your fingernail. Oh, and you have a pretty small window of time in which to harvest corn, so when you reckon they are good to go, get harvesting and then get eating!

Pests and the Rest

Corn does have a couple of pests, dependent on where you live. Bushrats have always been my personal bugbear, but nothing a bit of vine netting didn’t put an end to. The biggest issue with sweet corn is the aptly named “earworm”, who, not surprisingly, nests in the ears of corn. A nice diverse patch, healthy soil and good watering regime should prevent attack, especially if you whack some carrots and daisy type plants into your patch. Bad infestations could be dealt with using derris dust or Bacillus thuringiensis (despite the scary name, this is a readily available low environmental impact worm destroyer!), but I reckon removing the worms and feeding them to the chooks is a top idea!

Hot Tip

Corn, once harvested, goes downhill pretty quickly and rapidly losses flavour. The best way to enjoy sweet corn is really fresh. But, if required, blanching corn and then freezing it is a top thing to do. My other hot tip – don’t put salt in the cooking water (yes Mum, I’m talking to you!). It converts the sweet corn sugars (yum) into starch (not so yum), so wait ’til you’re about to eat it to salt it!

Eat Me

Sweet Corn loves to be baked in the oven or barbequed. Keep them in their husky tuxedos or wrap them in foil.

Try smothering them in these flavoured butters before and after cooking:
Coriander Pesto ( see the Coriander page)
Soy and Shallot ( 100g butter, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 finely sliced shallot)
Chili and Ginger ( 100g butter, 1 chili, 2cm knob of ginger, 1 tsp ground coriander)
Lemon and garlic ( 100g butter, 1 tbsp lemon juice, handful parsley, 1 garlic clove)

Why not bake or BBQ a cob of corn, slice off the kernels and add it to the Cous Cous Salad recipe in the Cucumber page.