Sum­mer veges

Novem­ber is plant­ing time for some favourite sum­mer crops. Sarah O’Neil speaks from ex­pe­ri­ence about sow­ing seed out­doors.

Go Gardening - - Editorial -

For some crops, it makes sense to sow seed in trays early, for plant­ing out when the weather warms up. How­ever, some plants pre­fer to be planted straight into the ground when the soil tem­per­a­tures are per­fect for them. Planted at the right time and in the right con­di­tions, th­ese plants will thrive and be­come much health­ier than the in­door pam­pered ones.


The sweet­est taste of sum­mer has to be fresh sweet­corn, har­vested and put straight on the bar­be­cue in its husk where the plump, yel­low ker­nels steam in their own juices. To ex­pe­ri­ence this plea­sure, you need to put in a bit of ef­fort 100 or so days ear­lier.

Corn grows big and fast and this re­quires a rich fer­tile soil to feed the rapid growth. Adding lots of or­ganic mat­ter and well-rot­ted ma­nure helps sus­tain this hun­gry plant, so it’s in the best in­ter­ests of an abun­dant har­vest to take the time to get the soil just right. Sow­ing sweet­corn seeds into a space that has pre­vi­ously grown beans or had a legume cover crop will also help to­wards a bumper har­vest.

Not only should the soil be rich but it also needs to be well drained. It also needs the abil­ity to re­tain mois­ture as corn is very thirsty and is shal­low rooted. If the soil dries out, growth slows down. A good qual­ity mulch (such as straw) will help keep the root zone moist be­tween wa­ter­ing and keep weeds down. Care should also be taken when weed­ing so as not to dam­age the roots.

Be­cause the shal­low roots are eas­ily dam­aged it is best to plant corn seeds di­rectly into the gar­den, so they can grow a strong root struc­ture for their top heavy plants. You will need to wait for the gar­den to warm up, as sweet­corn prefers soil no colder than 16-18°C and will rot if it is colder than that. Novem­ber is a good month to be­gin to sow corn. Even then it can be a bit fussy, so pop a cou­ple of seeds into each hole so you have a greater chance of suc­cess and then re­move the weaker of the two seedlings.

Corn is pol­li­nated by the wind and in or­der for a suc­cess­ful pol­li­na­tion rate, which on the plate looks like a fat cob with no gaps, it is best to plant them in a grid pat­tern to form a block rather than in a row, with plants spaced 30cm apart and the rows within the block 60cm apart. Even as a block of plants they are vul­ner­a­ble to the wind, so try to make sure they are in a shel­tered spot. If you want to grow dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties, make sure they are in dif­fer­ent parts of your gar­den or they will cross pol­li­nate and your corn won’t taste as good as it should.


While corn loves a rich soil, beans pre­fer it a lit­tle leaner. This is be­cause bean plants, like all legumes, are able to fix their own ni­tro­gen. If the soil is too rich you may end up with lots of leaves and few beans. Be­fore sow­ing beans you need to know if you have dwarf or climb­ing beans, as the climb­ing ones will need some­thing to climb on - such as a trel­lis, teepee or other struc­ture. It is much bet­ter to in­stall the sup­port struc­ture first, rather than try­ing to put it in af­ter and dam­ag­ing the roots.

De­spite it be­ing easy enough to grow beans in­doors in con­tain­ers,

Climb­ing beans

Sweet­corn ‘Honey and Pearl’

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