Kids Go Gardening - grow sweet corn

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Did you know? The sweetest corn ever is the corn you pick fresh from your own garden. This is because corn has natural sugar in it. After the cob is picked off the plant the sugar starts turning into starch. So the sooner you eat it the better it tastes!

How to grow corn

When the soil warms up in November or December it’s time to sow corn seed straight into the garden. But if you are itching to get started, there’s no need to wait! Sow some seed in little pots in October and your little corn plants will be ready to plant out as soon as the soil feels nice and warm on your bare feet.

Fact: Corn seed needs warm soil (at least 16°C) before it will grow.

If you sow your seed in biodegradable pots your seedlings can be popped into the soil pot and all. This way the roots will keep growing strongly while the pot turns to compost. Try making your own biodegradable pots empty toilet rolls.

  1. Fill your pots with damp seed raising mix and set them up in a tray. (An ice cream container makes a good holder homemade toilet roll pots.)
  2. Use a pencil or stick to poke a hole 2cm deep in each pot.
  3. Drop a seed into each hole and cover it with soil. Tip: If you have plenty of seed you can plant two seed in each place in case one doesn’t germinate then pull out the weakest of the two seedlings if they both grow.
  4. Water gently and place your seed pots in a warm sunny place. Water to keep the soil just moist. The first leaves should appear in one or two weeks.
  5. Plant your seedlings out in the garden as soon as there is no risk of frost. Choose a sunny sheltered patch of soil and mix in some blood and bone before planting. Plant in a grid pattern with about 30 between each plant.
  6. Spread compost or straw mulch around your plants to keep the soil moist and block weeds.
  7. Water and feed your corn as it grows. Watering is extra important when the cobs start to grow.
  8. Your corn is ready to pick when the silks turn brown.

Science Pro

Corn has both male and female flowers. At the top of each plant are the male ‘tassels’ which make pollen. The corn cobs, which grow lower down, are called ‘ears’. There are usually two of them. The female ‘silks’ grow from the top of each ear.
When pollen from the tassels lands on the silks, each silk acts like a straw to carry a tiny pollen grain down into the ear and make the yellow corn kernels grow. This is called pollination. When there isn’t enough pollen the corn cob is gappy, with bits missing.
Wind moves corn pollen but you can help: gently tap the tassels with a stick. Also, plant your corn in a group or a grid pattern, not just one straight row.

Grow your own popcorn!

Strawberry Popcorn is a special variety of red coloured corn with cute strawberry shaped cobs. Instead of munching on a yellow corn cob, you’ll be harvesting your very own popping corn!

  1. Sow the seed and grow the plants just like sweet corn.
  2. Pick the cobs in late summer, when the plants start to turn yellow. Leave them in a cool dry place for about a month.
  3. Twist the cobs to get the kernels off. Store it in an air-tight container or use it straight away.
  4. Cook the popcorn with a little oil in a pot on the stove a large covered bowl in the microwave (on high for about two and a half minutes) or until you hear it stop popping. Eat it while its still warm!


Look for these products, tips and advice at a Go Gardening Store near you.



sweet corn plants
Corn tassels (male) at the top and silks (female) below

sweet corn
Corn cob

pop corn
Strawberry popcorn