mercredi 1 juin 2011

To do when we get a house...

Yes, you can grow sweet corn in your backyard!

Rumour has it that the place to grow sweet corn is in a farm field. Backyard gardens, the reasoning goes, generally are not large enough to make the harvest worth it, and pollination problems are likely with small plantings.
Well, that isn't necessarily so. By choosing varieties with care, providing good growing conditions and using a few tricks, you can harvest one ear of the best-tasting corn imaginable for each square foot planted.

Variety selection is important for scrumptious sweet corn. If space is at a premium, grow varieties that ripen quickly (Golden Midget, Earlivee and Quickie, for example) and have shorter stalks.

But also choose varieties for flavour. Yellow corns generally have "cornier" flavour; white corns a purer sweetness. Varieties such as Honey & Cream and Bodacious pack both yellow and white kernels into each of their ears.

Corn is a hungry plant that needs rich, moist soil and at least six hours a day of sunlight. Close planting without attention to soil and water results in nubbins rather than plump, well-filled ears. So add plenty of compost to the soil along with a high nitrogen fertilizer, such as two pounds of soybean meal for each hundred square feet.

For close planting, grow corn in double rows of "hills," a hill being a cluster of three or four plants. Hills ensure good pollination. Space each row of that double row two feet apart, with two feet between hills. You won't be able to walk between the double row, but you can harvest from each side. If you garden in beds, just plant two or more rows of hills down the length of each of your beds.

Once up and growing, corn needs little - but regular - care. Keep weeds at bay with shallow hoeing or by smothering them beneath a thick mulch of some organic material such as leaves, straw or compost. Mulch also conserves water, which you should supplement during dry spells so that plants receive the equivalent of about an inch of water each week. Measure water from a sprinkler or rainfall into a straight sided container, such as a coffee can.

Speaking of, your reward should arrive two to three months after planting. Timely harvest is all-important for the best-tasting sweet corn. Start your countdown when silks first show at the tips of the ears; expect to eat those ears about three weeks later.

When ready for harvest, an ear looks and feels full, and its silks have browned but are not yet brittle. If you are inexperienced at harvesting corn, pull back the husk to check that the kernels are plump and ooze a milky juice when pressed with a fingernail.

Pull down on a ripe ear to rip it from its stalk, then take a bite right away or bring it to the kitchen for cooking. Either way, each bite will be a reminder that sweet corn is worth growing in the backyard.

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