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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sweet corn for the New to Gardening .
Check out our first crop of corn for the year, grown from last years saved seeds. Many people have commented on the excellent viability of our sweetcorn seeds, with 100% strike rate reported. Once again, rats are our problem in this crop. Bring on the owls!

Corn is a warm season frost tender plant so in Nannup it can be planted from September through to the end of February with relative safety. It is a heavy feeder so will grow best in soil enriched with compost and or worm castings and a protective layer of mulch. It will need irrigation in most Perth gardens , but a humus ( carbon ) rich soil will of course absorb and hold 6 times more water than a poor soil , so improve your soil and save on  irrigation. Corn does not suffer many diseases or pests, except rats, so start controlling any rodent populations when you plant the seed.  Very strong winds can blow them over , so a hedge of Jerusalem artichoke /sunflower is a good idea around a corn patch.
Best to plant corn in blocks of at least 12 plants, rather than rows, as pollination is by wind.
An un- pollinated corn cob has no nib lets! So you are likely to get corn on only one side of the cob if it is grown in a row.
Corn takes about 4 months from seed to sweet corn ready to pick. The Balinese variety usually has 2 cobs per plant . Knowing when to harvest can be tricky. Over or under ripe corn is a bit of a waste. You get to know by experience when it is ready. I sneak a look at the cobs just as the tassel has gone all dry and dark brown and the cob is looking fat, by peeling aside a few inches of green sheath leaves and seeing if the nib lets look plump and yellow. If not ready yet pat the leaves back in place to protect against the prying eyes of thieves like rats and parrots. Under ripe are cream coloured and small .Past their prime they look deeper yellow and a little shrunken.
Open pollinated corn is not a super sweet and tender as the hybrids, but it is still very nice , and I find it tastes actually better and more nutritious ( and probably is). The pale green corn silk surrounding the cob is edible and meant to be good urinary tract tonic and alkalising  . The big advantage of open pollinated corn is, if you wish to save your own seed you can and it will be like the parent plants. Replanting saved hybrid seed is not recommended as it may not be anything like what you saved. To save seed choose the healthiest  plants with the earliest, biggest, most numerous cobs and do not pick them to eat ( ohhh!!) but let them remain on the plant till all the plant and cob are withered and going brown. If you end up with lots of corn seed, tell the world because we need to maintain our open pollinated, non GE , non- patented seed stocks. And that’s best done by keeping good varieties alive and in the hands of many gardeners.
Happy munching! PS Once we grew a lovely stand of sweet corn. It was nearly ready to eat and we were dismayed to find the cows had got in and demolished the corn patch. They were enjoying the last stalks and leaves. We crossly shooed them out .
 But surprise! All was not lost. On closer inspection we found the cobs lying on the ground untouched. …muddy, but otherwise unscathed. We peeled them and got the inch of water boiling in a big pot and threw them in . A feast of fresh corn ensued and froze the rest!  

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