Sweetcorn

The flowers on our block of sweetcorn plants have been standing proud for a few weeks.

I have been doing some reading up on the pollination of sweetcorn, and learnt that these are the male flowers, and the pollen from these needs to shower down onto the female flowers, or silks, to pollinate them and produce juicy sweetcorn.

A quick investigation shows that we do have silks starting to develop further down the plants,

and now the male flowers have opened up and are starting to shower their pollen,

so all we need now is for the pollen to reach the silks, and we should start to see some cobs forming.

I am very excited, we haven’t grown sweetcorn before and I had no idea how they were pollinated. I had anticipated that the block planting was necessary only to allow pollen from one plant to be carried by the wind onto its neighbours regardless of wind direction, I hadn’t realised that it also helps to prevent the wind from carrying pollen away from the female flowers. I also learned that every kernel of corn on the ear develops from an individually pollinated strand of silk, so for a full uniform ear of corn, we need all those strands to be pollinated. Intriguing stuff! The wind was very fierce up here yesterday, I’m not sure whether that will help or hinder, but my fingers are firmly crossed.

A number of people recommend helping the process by tapping the tops of the plants every time you pass, to release a fresh shower of pollen; or going a little further and running your hands up the male flower then up the female flower, to help cross the pollen from one to the other. Somehow this seems almost an infringement of the plants’ privacy, but in the interests of ensuring that we do actually have a harvest, I am tempted to give it a try. After all, it’s only a little more intimate than tickling chilli flowers in the greenhouse with a paintbrush…

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2 thoughts on “Sweetcorn

  1. It is exciting, and thanks for the info, I’ve learnt a lot reading that, when we came back from France a few weeks ago I assumed (wrongly) that the tassles was the plant bolting in all the dry weather. It’s my first year as well, very ignorant on sweetcorn, but pleased to say there are now loads of cobs forming so fingers crossed. Best of luck!

  2. Hi Damo, I’m pleased that you learned something from my findings. It’s a fascinating process! The strong winds have left our sweetcorn leaning at a rakish angle, so we’re going to have to encourage them back upright and stake them this weekend, in case there is any more unruly weather. Good luck with yours too.

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