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Top tips for growing sweetcorn

Sweetcorn cobs on wooden table

Growing your own sweetcorn is a bit of a revelation, as freshly harvested cobs taste infinitely better than anything you can buy in a shop. That’s because the sugars begin to turn to starch as soon as the cobs are picked, so the fresher the better! Whether you plunge yours directly into a pan of boiling water, throw it onto a hot barbecue, or eat it raw, there’s nothing quite like the flavour of this sensational veg picked straight from the plant. 

Browse our full range of sweetcorn seeds to see all the different varieties you can grow.

How to sow, plant and harvest sweetcorn

Sweetcorns growing in Suttons trial grounds
The sweetcorn grown under a plastic sheet is much taller than the row without protection or mulch
Image: Suttons trial grounds

Developed especially for the UK climate, many sweetcorn varieties grow vigorously to allow them to reach maturity in our short summer season. Here are some tips to get you started: 

  • Sow your sweetcorn seeds into small, individual pots of good quality compost in April or May. They don’t like their roots to be disturbed, so it’s best not to use seed trays. 
  • Put them on a warm, bright windowsill to germinate. 
  • If you’re growing a super-sweet variety, avoid growing other types of sweetcorn to avoid cross-pollination. 
  • If you prefer not to faff about with seeds, order some sweetcorn plants and have them delivered directly to your door. Raised in optimum conditions, these high quality plants will get you off to a flying start. 
  • Harden off young plants for at least a week, but don’t move them out into their final positions until June, or when all chance of frost has passed. 
  • If possible, plant into soil that has been enriched with well-rotted manure the previous autumn.
  • Space your sweetcorn about 45cm apart. Always plant in a grid pattern, rather than rows, or the wind won’t be able to pollinate the plants. If they’re not pollinated properly, kernels won’t form on the cobs.
  • Sweetcorn prefers a sunny, sheltered location but likes its roots to stay cool and moist. 
  • For the best results, water regularly and add a thick mulch. You can also plant through a reusable plastic sheet. Toby (our Trial Grounds guru) recently put some plants directly into uncovered soil and protected others with plastic. Those with their roots covered performed dramatically better, as the plastic locked in moisture and kept down weeds. 
  • As your plants grow, keep an eye on the tassels. When they turn brown, it’s time to gently peel back a husk to check inside. 
  • Your sweetcorn is ready to harvest if a milky liquid comes out of the kernel when pressed with your thumbnail. 
  • Eat your sweetcorn as soon as possible after harvesting. The sweetness diminishes with age.

Best sweetcorn varieties to try

Hand holding pale yellow sweetcorn
Sweetcorn ‘Eden’ has crisp, juicy, creamy-white cobs
Copyright: Rob Smith’s Allotment

We hope these tips will help you to grow your own sweetcorn in your garden or at your allotment. For even more independent, expert advice on growing sweetcorn, read what our favourite garden bloggers have to say in this helpful article.

Image: Sweetcorn (Organic) Seeds – Damaun from Suttons

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