Name: corn, sweet corn (Zea mays varieties).
Plant type: annual vegetable.
Height: less than 1m to 2m+, depending on variety.
Foliage: long, to 50cm, strappy leaves, generally an attractive semi-glossy deep green. Base of leaves wraps around the stem.
Climate: tropical and sub-tropical, warm and cold temperate.
Soil: prefers quality, rich soil but will grow in most soil types.
Position: full sun, tolerates wind.
Flowering and fruiting: flowers towards late summer when planted in spring. Cobs ripen 4–6 weeks after flowering.
Feeding: must be planted in improved soil and fed well for best performance.
Watering: reliable moisture brings best results.
If you can meet a few basic requirements, corn can be one of the easiest and most rewarding vegies you can grow. You’re almost guaranteed a fantastic harvest of a couple of cobs per plant.
A fast-growing annual, corn is generally tall, thin and always a single-stemmed plant. It’s technically a grass, as it’s in the family Poaceae, and you can see this in the way its leaf bases clasp the stem. In fact, the leaves are shaped like giant grass blades. The leaves can reach around 50cm in length, but will only be around 5–8cm wide. They are quite a rich green, and have visible veins running lengthways along them. Corn’s handsome leaves and bulk makes it quite attractive in the vegie garden.
Aerial or support roots often form around the base of the stem as the plant ages. A single plant should produce between two and four cobs of corn.
Corn is self-pollinating, with male and female flowers appearing on the same plant. Male flowers will arise at the top of the plant and produce masses of pollen; female flowers, which will become the cobs, appear in the junction of the leaf stem and stalk.
Generally, corn is a big plant, and quite fast-growing, making for dramatic, seemingly rapid growth. It’s also a useful plant in the vegie garden. It makes a very handsome backdrop plant and, because it’s wind tolerant and dense, it can be planted as a windbreak for softer herbs or vegies. It’s a great one to grow with the kids, too, as they can measure its growth every few days and always see something happening.
Corn grows best in full sun. It is tolerant of windy conditions when planted in groups, but individual plants will be easily broken by wind.
Corn is tolerant of virtually any soil type, but the best growth comes in quality soil that has been improved with the addition of compost or well-composted manure. In sandy soils, such organic matter must be added to improve moisture retention. Avoid overly damp positions.
In warm temperate regions, corn will be planted in late winter to early spring. In cold temperate it will be planted in mid to late spring. In tropical regions it can be grown year-round, and in all but the coldest months in the sub-tropics.
Corn takes around 120 days from seed to harvest. If grown from seedlings, this can be reduced to around 90–110 days.
Corn will grow very well in pots; just ensure you select a dwarf variety, and that the pot is large enough that the plant won’t become top-heavy. Use a premium organic potting mix or a vegie and herb blend.
Corn is one of the few seedlings that can benefit from being planted deeper than it was growing in its pot. As it has dormant roots within the stem, planting it with a centimetre or so of the seedling stem below the soil will actually improve its establishment and speed of growth.
Corn requires little if any maintenance once it starts growing. Ensure adequate moisture is provided at all times, especially as the cobs are developing. Regular application of a liquid organic product such as a seaweed tonic will help with plant vigour.
One of the biggest points of confusion regarding corn is when to harvest the cobs.
Corn is relatively pest-free. The major problem comes from various grubs that can enter the cob and damage kernels. You can avoid this by regularly checking developing cobs for evidence of caterpillars.
As an annual plant, corn will be grown from seed or planted from seedlings.
Lettuce: expand your vegie garden with this easy-to-grow, year-round favourite.
How to plant and grow herbs: keep it fresh in the kitchen by growing all the herbs you need.
Lemon tree: easy and enjoyable to grow, lemons make a great addition to your edible garden.
Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!
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