Unusual Vegetable Plants
Sweet Corn - Zea Mays
Sweet Corn is actually a member of the grass family, but unlike most grasses produces relatively large, edible seed kernels The original varieties came from sub-tropical areas, but many new strains have been developed that are more suitable for growing in the UK. One requirement that sweet corn has, is, it must be grown in full sun and with global warming this should no longer be a problem, however the more turbulent weather that we now seem to get, does mean that shelter may have to be given from strong winds.
To get a good start on the season the seeds should be sown indoors, or in a heated greenhouse around mid-April time and it is best sown in peat pots, rather than plastic pots. This is so that the young plants can be planted into their final positions without tipping them out of their pots as they do not like their roots being disturbed. Then, when planting out, it is best to plant under a cloche, or even in a poly-tunnel if you have one. This will not only give the plants a favourable mini-climate, but also protect them from rocking in the wind due to their tall, slender growth. Sweet corn should be planted in a well dug growing bed as it sends down deep roots.
Although sweet corn likes full sun it should also be well watered and as sweet corn are remarkably free from pests and diseases, a successful crop can be expected in 12 weeks with 1 or two sweet corn cobs per plant. Male and female flowers are produced separately on each plant and as they are wind pollinated planting should be done in blocks to ensure good pollination.
Maturing sweet corn should be fed at fortnightly intervals with fertilisers designed for tomatoes and the cobs will grow inside a coarse papery sheath that has long silky threads which turn brown and start to shrivel as the cob ripens. Careful opening of the top of the sheath and gentle pressure applied with a thumb nail will reveal if the cob is ripe.