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Growing Sweet Corn

How to grow sweet corn in garden beds and allotments



Family/Latin Name

Poaceae - Zea mays

Type of Plant

Cereal - Crop Rotation Group = Others

Suitable for


Garden Beds, Allotments

Pests & Diseases    Companion Plants    In the Kitchen

See also:-  Vegetable Growing Glossary  |    Container Growing  | Buying Seeds & Plants


Plant Dimensions

Height  up to 1.8m/6ft  -  Spread  Up to 30cm/12"

Yield per plant

2- 3 cobs

Yield per 1.5m/5 ft sq bed

 35 - 40 cobs

Time between sowing and harvesting

14 weeks

Sowing time

Mid April to May  - temperature  16-21C/60-70F 

Where to Sow

Indoors - although it's possible to sow outdoors in the south of England, better results are normally achieved by sowing indoors.

How to Sow

2.5cm/1" deep - 2 seeds per  7.5cm/3" pots of seed compost.  If possible use peat pots to avoid root disturbance when planting out later.

After Germination

Remove weakest seedling leaving 1 plant per pot and allow to grow on indoors until the end of May.

Growing on -  in Pots

Not generally recommended due to the height and pollination requirements. However if you have several wide pots you can try planting them 5 to a pot.

Growing on- in ground

At the end of May, gradually harden plants off before planting out. It is very important to plant in blocks not rows as the plants need to be grouped together in order for them to pollinate and produce corn. Space the plants a maximum of 45cm/18" apart each way - a couple of inches closer if you like. Water in after planting.


Although these plants are very tall, they should not need staking unless they are grown in a very exposed area. If roots appear at soil level during the season, cover these with earth.


Water during dry periods, particularly at flowering time. Once the tassels at the top have formed in late June/July, gently tapping each plant will aid pollination. Apply a liquid feed once the cobs begin to swell.


Start harvesting the cobs once the silks have turned a very dark brown. Test for ripeness by pulling back park of the sheath and pressing your fingernail into a kernel. If it exudes a  creamy liquid then the corn is ready.


Carefully twist the cob from the stem. Do not wait too long to harvest as the older the cobs get, the tougher and more doughy they become.

Pests and Diseases

Companion Plants

Indications Large galls appear on cobs and stalks.
Treatment Organic
Cut the galls off as soon as they appear and before they have burst open and burn
Prevention 1. Burn all infected plants after harvesting
2. Practise crop rotation
Frit Fly
Indications Seedlings develop ragged and twisted leaves, growth and cob production are stunted.
Treatment Organic
Spray seedlings with a pesticide containing phorate
Prevention Practise crop rotation

 Companion Flower Graphic

Grow Sunflowers, beans,  peas, courgettes, squash. cucumbers, or melons close by

Create a bio-diverse environment by planting flowers nearby to attract bees, ladybirds and other "friendlies". 


To learn more about companion planting click here.

In the Kitchen

Storage:  Best harvested just before use otherwise store in a cool, dry place  for up to 3 days  Excess amounts can be frozen. Prepare as below then blanch in boiling water for 2-3  minutes, drain well and allow to cool before freezing 

Preparing:  Remove the papery sheath and the stringy threads (silks) then cut off the stem if present. Wash well. They can then be cooked whole, cut widthways into sections or thick slices. Alternatively, the kernels can be removed from the cob with a sharp knife. The easy way to do this is to cut off the stem end so it can be steadied on a work surface, then, starting at the pointed end, cut down to the base as close to the central cob as possible.

Cooking:  Never add salt to the cooking water  as this toughens the kernels.


Whole  =  20-35 minutes. Coat with oil or melted butter


Whole  =    8 - 15 minutes  Do not add salt to the water
Kernels   =    5 - 10 minutes  Do not add salt to the water


Kernels   =    Stir-fry  3-5  minutes


Whole  =    8 - 15 minutes brush liberally with melted butter


Whole/Kernels  = 5 - 10 minutes


Whole  =    15 - 20 minutes 
Kernels   =    10 - 15 minutes 

For more preparation and cooking information about Sweet Corn plus lots of  recipes visit our sister site www.recipes4us.co.uk.

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