Plant Sweetcorn in Grids, Not Rows

Understanding how sweetcorn grows will help to get good results from your plants. Sweetcorn is part of the grass family, and rather than relying on insects for pollination, it relies on wind.

Pollen is held in the tassels that grow at the very top of the plant, the male part, and needs to fall on the silky tassels that grow at the end of each cob, the female part. Each of these silky tassels on the cobs connects to a sweetcorn kernel inside the cob – for the kernel to swell, its tassel must be pollinated. Once the male stops shedding pollen, the silk tassels on the female will begin to turn brown and then black. Once black, the sweetcorn is usually ready for harvesting.

Arranging sweetcorn plants in a grid rather than in a single row helps to improve the chances of successful pollination. (If you’ve grown peculiar looking cobs before with just a few plump kernels then it’s most likely that they didn’t get pollinated very successfully.)

We would recommend planting your sweetcorn plants in  a grid of 3 rows. Leave 30cm between plants and 30cm between rows.


Baby sweetcorn is a bit different, in that you don’t want the kernels to be pollinated. So for these, it is better to plant in a single row, and harvest while the tassels are still blonde, before pollination has begun.