How sweet it is
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.