Tuesday, 18 September 2012
We love sweetcorn, which is why my attempts to grow it for the past 5 years have been so disappointing (the first year however was a roaring success). Each year I carefully nurture my seedlings, sown in modules in the greenhouse, then moved to a bed that's been lovingly weeded and layered with compost. I water them and underplant with beans and squash (the 'three sisters'). And what happens? Well, I get sweetcorn but only a few and much later than everybody else.
My neighbours' have tall proud sweetcorn plants with multiple ears of corn. They take pity on me and offer me some to supplement my meagre pickings. I ask them what they do - they manure/compost just as I do. They water, just as I do. They block plant; several try the 'three sisters' approach. My crop is poor; their's is bountiful. Well not this year! This year I have tall, proud, multistemed sweetcorn and I have plenty of it and have been giving it away.
What I have in inadvertently discovered (I think) is that sweetcorn doesn't like being confined in a 2 by 1 metre bed and/or being raised in modules.
This year I grew two batches of sweetcorn (I accidently bought two packets of seeds). The first I grew in modules then planted into a 2 by 1 metre bed that had been weeded and manured. The other was planted directly into a large area in my second plot; it had been the site of the chicken run so was well manured for 3 months. Both were underplanted with pumpkin and french beans.
The module-grown sweetcorn grew pretty much as normal (for me that is). All the plants grew, they most produced one small sweetcorn - but there were gaps in the cobs where not all were fertilized. However with the directly planted sweetcorn only about 15 of the 30 seeds grew into mature plants, a pretty poor survival rate I think, but each plant that did survive has thrived and produced bigger and better sweetcorn that the module-grown sweetcorn.
I thought this was a really interesting result and next year I'm going to try again - this time reversing the planting to see what happens. Module grown seedlings can go into open ground and the bed will be directly sown. I might also add a few directly sown into open ground just to make sure I get some sweetcorn.
Watch this space!