Sweetcorn 'Bloody Butcher' - Seed
Maize does not need any prior treatment but soaking overnight in lukewarm water will encourage germination.Sowing
Sow in the garden, mid-April to May.
Sow indoors, March-April.
Sweetcorn should not be grown in soil with too much fertiliser, or soil that stays wet for too long or is too cold. The sugar content will suffer if it does. Several short rows are better than one long one (think 'wind').
Sowing can be done in 1 of 2 ways:
- Directly in the garden, preferably in full sun from mid-April through to May. Loosen the soli with a fork to at least 30 cm. Draw a straight furrow and plant 2 maize kernels every 30 cm. Cover with 5-6 cm soil, press lightly down and sprinkle with water if the soil is dry. Label the row and start a new one - 50 cm apart. Do three blocks of 3 rows, 70 cm between blocks. Keep only the strongest seedlings, removing all others. Seedlings are very popular with the birds! We suggest covering your bed with a fleece to ward the birds off.
- Sow indoors if you wish to germinate your kernels earlier. This will deter the birds too. Sow in pots, March-April. Use good seeding compost and plant one kernel per pot. Cover to a max. of 5 cm, press lightly down and sprinkle with water. Stand the pots in room temperature. If too early to plant out, slow the growth by standing the pots in a cooler spot. Do not allow the pots to dry out and give the sweetcorn plants room - they should not be touching. Plant out in mid-May at 30 cm intervals with 50 cm between rows (70 cm between blocks of three).
Maize has been a staple in Latin America for thousands of years and was brought to Europe by Columbus. Nowadays, there are 3 varieties that are grown in large quantities: corn cobs for feeding cattle (so, not the kernels); maize for cattle feed (whole plant is used) and sweetcorn.
Maize is a type of grass (Gramineae).
Corn cob plants can grow 1.2 to 2.5 metres tall. When they are this tall, the spears of corn plant grow male flowers. The cobs at the lower level are actually female flowers. The long threads catch the pollen from the males as it is blown by the wind over the females, so, the more plants there are, the more certain the corn will be pollinated.
A maize kernel is mostly made up of food storage for the germ in the seed and is itself mostly corn-starch made from the sugar in the kernel. So the trick is to harvest your sweetcorn cobs before the sugar turns to corn-starch.
Corn plant life like legumes (such as beans and peas) is synonymous with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil. The advantage to that is that there is then more nitrogen in the soil after a harvest than there was before - a good fertiliser for next year's crop(s).
Sweetcorn on the cob should be eaten as fresh as possible! As the cobs age, the sugar in the kernels turns to corn-starch so they will be less sweet! This process starts as soon as they have been harvested!Boil your cobs with some salted water for a few minutes, spread some butter over the cob and sprinkle various spices like pepper, paprika powder or a Cajun mix over it. They are cooked when a fork easily pricks into a kernel.
Freshly picked corn cobs will keep for several days in the fridge – even up to 2 weeks if they are wrapped in cling-film. Blanch them (briefly cook) to stop the process of changing the sugars to corn-starch. They can then also be frozen without losing the sugar in the corn kernels.
Water extra only in periods of drought - this is important if you want well filled maize. Keep the bed weed-free - do this by hand and do not use a hoe as sweetcorn has surface roots that are easily damaged. Sweetcorn has low disease levels, but one thing they dislike is waterlogged soil.Harvesting
Harvest from June-August for the table.
Harvest September-November if you wish to use them in a dried flower arrangement.
Corn cobs are best when freshly cut. Do not leave them on the plant too long or they will get hard. A corn cob is ripe when the beard just begins to turn brown - you can see the 'hairs' if you open the top of the cob. Ripe cobs are red to reddy-brown in colour - if they are white, then they are not quite ripe. Cut the cob from the corn stalk with a sharp knife. You should get 1, 2 or even 3 cobs per plant, but this will depend on the climate.
If you intend harvesting corn seed for the next year, or if you wish to use some cobs in dried flower arrangements, you can allow the plant to completely dry out and then harvest - keeping some of the stalk for in the bouquet.
Once all harvested, the plant can be dug up and discarded.