How sweet it is

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Peter Cun­dall

WE can grow sweet­corn per­fectly in Tas­ma­nia. To get the best- flavoured and big­gest crops there are two main choices.

Sweet­corn plants can ei­ther be grown by di­rectly sow­ing seeds where the plants are to de­velop and ma­ture, or grown from bought seedlings planted into the bed.

With­out doubt the best way is by di­rect seed­ing be­cause we get a larger choice of va­ri­eties and seed pack­ets are far bet­ter value than seedlings in pun­nets. Each packet has about 100 seeds for about $ 4.

On the other hand we can pay the same price for pun­nets that con­tain only about 10 seedlings.

In fact, if bought, pun­net- grown seedlings are lanky, over­crowded and slightly root­bound – a com­mon prob­lem – the plants rarely get a chance to grow strongly, so yields can be dis­ap­point­ing. If seedlings are pre­ferred for con­ve­nience, avoid crowded pun­nets and go for small, well- spaced seedlings.

Sweet­corn plants are greedy. That means the soil in which they are to be grown must be en­riched with lots of or­ganic ma­nures and other high- ni­tro­gen fer­tilis­ers be­fore sow­ing.

Spread a thick, 100mm layer of sheep or pul­verised cow ma­nure over the bed. Add a gen­er­ous sprin­kling of pel­letised chicken drop­pings and a hand­ful of blood and bone over ev­ery square me­tre.

Then use a fork to dig the lot in, mix­ing it well into the soil.

If you want ex­cep­tional yields of fat, sweet cobs from highly- vig­or­ous plants, here’s a spe­cial lit­tle trick. Make 150mm deep grooves in the soil about a me­tre apart. Into the base of each groove, pour some pul­verised, black char­coal and drench it with a mix­ture of half a cup each of fish emul­sion and sea­weed con­cen­trate di­luted with 10 litres of wa­ter.

Back- fill to cover the en­riched char­coal and sow the sweet­corn seeds di­rectly over the top, spaced 33cm apart. Give the bed a deep wa­ter­ing only un­til the seedlings pop up in about 10- 15 days.

Which va­ri­ety of sweet­corn? We have a great choice. The best of the su­per- sweets is the bi­coloured SnoGold with al­ter­na­tive pale cream and golden yel­low ker­nels.

Hon­eysweet Im­proved also pro­duces very tasty cobs and both ma­ture about 100 days af­ter ger­mi­na­tion.

Oth­ers in­clude Mir­a­cle, with ex­tra- large, juicy cobs and the pop­u­lar Golden Ban­tam, both of which take about 90 days to ma­ture.

Al­ways grow just one va­ri­ety of sweet­corn for the best, high- qual­ity, ex­tra- sweet cobs.

One prob­lem in Tas­ma­nia is our rel­a­tively dry sum­mer weather. These plants need wa­ter, es­pe­cially when the first ears be­gin to form around the end of Jan­uary.

The soil must be given a heavy wa­ter­ing al­most ev­ery week from late Jan­uary un­til ma­tu­rity. Lack of wa­ter as cobs form is the ma­jor rea­son for poor ker­nel de­vel­op­ment and ‘‘ bald- headed’’ cobs. It helps if the bed is heav­ily mulched with any kind of straw, mixed with pel­letised chicken ma­nure dur­ing De­cem­ber. The mulch can be piled firmly against the lower parts of the sweet­corn plants. This en­cour­ages ex­tra stem roots to emerge to feed from the mulch to en­sure even big­ger crops.

In mid- De­cem­ber, sow some climb­ing cu­cum­ber seeds on the sun­ni­est side of the bed, close to the sweet­corn stems. As they grow, guide the cu­cum­ber plants so they climb up the stalks. Af­ter all cobs have been har­vested there’s a sec­ond re­ward; a tasty crop of cu­cum­bers hang­ing from the bare corn stalks. Works a treat.

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