Growing Sweetcorn in an allotment – planting sweetcorn

When it comes to sweetcorn we’re not experts – but we’d thought we’d share with you our experiences as we learn the ropes.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society on their RHS website, “sweetcorn is most successful in long hot summers”… and so maybe this will just work out for us even though we’re late getting it in!

The seeds were a gift to Mr Frackle from Frackle2 for Father’s Day and so we were in good time to sow them. They are a late season variety – Valencia – and so we met the deadline for the June sowing period. However, most varieties are sown earlier – here’s the recommended timetable for sweetcorn courtesy of the RHS: sweetcorn timetable - RHS Gardening

Here’s where the trouble starts though – obviously we didn’t get our plot on the allotment until late July and so the seedlings were germinated at home under glass and then left in the seed trays until we were able to plant out, which has no doubt restricted their growth.

However they look healthy at the moment, so although we are some way behind the other sweetcorn plants we can see on other plots, it’ll be interesting to see how far they can catch up now they’re in a good place and where they should be!


We read on the BBC website that sweetcorn is wind pollinated and best planted in large blocks, “…where the male flowers at the top of the plant have more opportunity to shed their pollen on the female tassels (where the cobs will form) below.” Isn’t that brilliant? What a way to go about the business of reproduction – we like its style!

Each plant will produce one or two cobs apparently, so it will be interesting to see the sort of yield that we get from these plants. Our plot is relatively sheltered and it’s very sunny – these are requirements for a good yield we’re told. Generally speaking you can grow these on any fertile garden soil.

It’s recommended that you add organic matter, like rotted manure, and rake in fertiliser before planting. They don’t like dry or heavy soil – which is good as ours is neither!

Here are the things we will need to do as we go forward from the RHS website:

Mulch with organic matter, to conserve moisture and suppress weeds and mound soil over the roots, which appear at the base of the stems.

Stake plants individually if they are tall or the location is exposed.

Water well in dry weather; this is vital when the plants are flowering.

Tap the tops of the plants when the male flowers (tassels) open to help pollination; poor pollination results in sparsely filled cobs. Liquid feed when the cobs begin to swell.

This batch is very much an experiment – if we can get some good data this year we will be ready to go large next year! Like the guys over at Rookie Allotmenteers,  a blog we love by the way and highly recommend, we are hoping we have created enough of a ‘block’ with our planting to allow for pollination. Let’s see…

Although these sweetcorn plants have plenty of obstacles to overcome, we’re looking forward to seeing what happens.

Maybe one day we can also wear a crown of corn like the winner of the UK Sweetcorn eating championships 😉

Day 3 – The clearing is completed! Allotment ready for planting

So we drafted in the remaining 2 members of the team – Mr Frackle & Frackle3 and we set off with a mission – firstly to finish the clearing of the plot and secondly to get the planting of the sweetcorn underway. Weapons of choice in hand, let the battle commence…



It took an amazingly short time to clear the remainder of the site – Mrs Frackle and Frackle2 had that done within 20 minutes of arriving and so it was on to the tilling of an area at the front of the plot so that we could begin planting.

Firstly though, as Mr Frackle got stuck in to the legwork (or spade work) Frackle2 decided a cleared plot was an ideal area for work on his javelin technique:


IMG_4331[1]IMG_4332[1]Thereafter it was back to the real job in hand and the first of our crops was officially introduced to our allotment – the ceremonial planting of the sweetcorn.

IMG_4333[1]Things are looking a lot tidier now and I think we can safely say that this week has been a productive one. Onwards and upwards!


The day we met Norman – and his broad beans

Elvis is in the…allotment


Job one today is the strimming – so Frackle1 assigned himself to setting up the strimmer – sporting the essential “Elvis” sunglasses (Vegas era). This was  relatively pain free and after a few strenuous arm pulls, he was off and running – tidying up the edges of the plot. By the time he had finished there was actually enough hay to form a rather good bale – but we had better things to do!


Frackle2 cracked on with the digging – there are still plenty of old potato plants on the plot so we worked on removing those before we started the big job of clearing the next patch of 5ft weedage. Interestingly, although the weeds come out relatively easily, the old turnips have grown super long tubers and are really tough to remove – we had a couple of comedy tug-of-war scenarios as 3 of us tried to to yank them out and ended up on the floor.IMG_4293[1]

There are 3 compost areas at the back of the plot – largish bins made from old pallets – we’ve filled 2 already and so I think the first job on September 1st will be a bonfire (that’s the first date we’re allowed to burn plant materials on the site). Then we can start again and work on creating some proper compost!Day 2 clearing nicelyAfter another concentrated session we have cleared two thirds of the plot now – we’ve left what I think is a small ragwort plant. I know this gets tons of bad press – we used to have a pony in another life and ragwort can be harmful to horses and livestock if eaten in large quantities – but here I can’t see it will cause a problem… and the bees love it! I need to do a bit of research on whether I’m right to leave it there, but Simon’s Allotment blog seems to agree with me – apparently there are at least thirty species of invertebrates which are totally dependent on ragwort as a food source and seeing as we are looking at this allotment project as a way of enjoying all things natural I can’t see why we should be eliminating something so obviously enjoyed by the other (non-human) residents.

The main thing in its favour is that it is a little “bee magnet”! I counted over 20 bees on that tiny clump of yellow and apparently “wise gardeners know that attracting honey bees to your garden is a good thing” – as Jaipi Sixbear tells us over on her lovely blog. She also points out that “bee pollination produces higher crop yields. That’s great for veggie gardeners” – I’m sold! And, if I’m honest, I think it looks wonderful.

Normans domain

Now here’s an allotment we aspire to! It’s one of two belonging to Norman, our neighbour across the path as it were. It’s fantastic! Norman introduced himself today – worried I think that there were only three of us – his opening line was “Have you got a fella to help you?”

A fella? A fella??!!  I pointed out that Frackle1 and Frackle2 were as strapping a fella as anyone could need or want, as they were grafting away with strimmer and spade. I then relented and explained we were five, all told, and that Mr Frackle Gardener and Frackle3 would also be joining as some point. A conversation then ensued on mobile technology, running our own businesses, and how we wouldn’t want to miss out on a £60,000 job whilst we were down here – it wasn’t the topic I expected to cover when Norman (probably in his mid seventies) ambled over. I accepted his advice, but pointed out that in this day and age, I could be in constant touch with my office, nay the global business place, at any point if I so chose… but that I was happy to spend an hour away from all that in search of the perfect broad bean.Norman at work

“Broad beans you say” … with that I was invited over for a tour of Norman’s wonderland of vegetable wondrousness. He grows everything – literally everything. I picked up plenty of tips. Key takeaways, though, were that you need to net your blackcurrants and gooseberries here, but amazingly (to me anyway) the birds don’t take the raspberries, and he had a rather good looking crop on the vine ( or whatever you call a raspberry growing structure – a cane??). The coup de gras – he took me to his broad beans, and gave me a whole batch that had now finished, explaining that we can dry them for seeds and plant them in February. Frackle3 will be delighted! Broad beans were on her bucket list…

Sign of a job well done? Mud over the face after a day down the pits… well, with the strimmer in the sunshine, anyway 😉

Day 2 Muddy Face

And here are the fabulous broad beans for seeds  – our gift from Norman. I am already looking forward to being able to reciprocate – although it may be some time and I think I’ll go for a pie or some such, as I’m not sure Norman will be in need of anything on the seed front!Norman's broad beans for seedsAnd of course to round things off, here’s where we are at the end of Day 2.

Day 2 progress - After

Day 1: The work begins!


Finally – it’s here! the day we begin the project that is our allotment.

It’s taken a while – 18 months thinking about it and saying we really must do something about getting an allotment. Then another 12 months once we were actually signed up to the waiting list. But here we are!

5 weeks after being told we had moved to the top of the list and been given a plot, the previous tenant has removed as much as he is going to – there’s still plenty of plastic bits, broken poles and even a coffee table that looks as though it once lived a slightly grander life – but at least the old filing cabinet has now gone!

It’s certainly a challenge – this is a plot that hasn’t been weeded for at least a year – and so we must start the process with a clearing project.


We’re talking 5ft weeds here as you can see! But after our first session, we’ve made good inroads. We’ve decided to section an area off and concentrate on that – it’s about a quarter of the entire plot.


Two strapping Frackle gardeners and a whole range of garden tools later…


It’s been really hot today – 1st August and Buckinghamshire is steaming again – and we did choose the midday sun as our companion – what do they say about mad dogs and Englishmen??

So, we’ve made a good start, and it’s time to pack up the tools ready for a new visit tomorrow


But even after only our first session, we’ve managed to harvest a reward for our efforts – not strictly fruits of our labour, but finders keepers as they say…


We’ll have those tonight with our home grown lettuce from the garden – lovely!

And finally, a quick shot of the “after” so you can compare it to the “before” shot –


Tomorrow – the arrival of the strimmer!