Courgettes are highly productive plants that fruit abundantly and best of all, they are easy to grow. They can even be grown in large containers or grow bags if you are short of space in your veg beds.
If you would like to try and grow your own courgettes, here’s what you need to know!
Courgettes are easy to grow from seed and can be sown indoors from mid-April, or sown directly outside in late May or early June, for later crops. Courgette seeds are sown on their side.
Young plants can also be bought from nurseries and garden centres and planted out from late May to early June, after the risk of frost has passed.
Choose a sunny, sheltered spot, and give them plenty of room, around a square metre for each plant, as they will grow into large plants.
Dig in lots of home-made compost or well-rotted manure in the planting site as courgettes are hungry plants.
Mulch around the plant with more compost or manure, to preserve moisture.
You can grow courgettes in grow bags or large containers but plant just one or two seeds per bag or container.
If more than one seed germinates, remove the weaker seedling so that just the stronger one remains.
Young plants are vulnerable to slugs and snails so be sure to protect them until they are established.
You can grow courgettes as companion plants with other crops that like the same growing conditions, such as sweetcorn. Sweetcorn is slow-growing and will grow upright so the low-growing courgette plants fill the gaps at ground level in order to maximise your growing space with two crops in the same bed.
Courgettes are thirsty plants and need regular, and generous, watering as they grow so try to keep the soil moist in order to encourage female, fruiting flowers. In dry conditions, most varieties will produce only non-fruiting, male flowers.
Sink a 15cm (6in) pot into the ground alongside your plant and direct watering there so the water goes right down to the roots and does not sit around the neck of the plant, which can lead to rotting.
Courgettes are hungry plants, so need a weekly to fortnightly feed with a high-potash feed, such as tomato food, to promote growth and flowering.
Courgette plants usually fruit for many months, from early summer onwards, sometimes right through to the first frost and you can expect to pick three or four fruits a week given the right growing conditions.
Pick courgettes when they are young and tasty at around 10–12cm (4–5in) long by cutting them off at the base with a sharp knife, or twisting the stalk sharply.
Regular harvesting, when the fruits are small, will encourage more to form. Leaving courgettes to grow larger to the size of marrows will reduce the plant’s overall vigour and fruiting potential.
The flowers can also be eaten raw in salads, or stuffed and baked or fried and have a mild courgette flavour.
Courgettes are best used fresh, but can be kept for a short period of time by storing in a cool, dry place. Check out The Indonesian Cook’s recipe for using courgettes in a ratatouille.
A white powdery coating appears over the leaf surface and leaves become stunted and shrivelled. Powdery mildew is a fungal spore which will affect growth, flowering, and fruiting. The moment mildew is seen, immediately prune out and destroy the affected leaves.
Healthy plants are less susceptible, so make sure they are well spaced and have good air circulation around them. Mulch the area to lock in moisture and keep the soil moist.
Grey, fluffy growth on plants is grey mould, Botrytis cinerea, especially common in damp or humid weather. Pores enter plants via damaged tissue, wounds, or open flowers.
Cut out any affected areas and remove any dead growth on the ground. In greenhouses, reduce humidity by ventilating and avoid overcrowding of young plants and seedlings. Avoid splashing the leaves when watering.
This happens if the plant only produces male flowers, which do not produce fruits, usually due to dry conditions. Keeping the soil consistently moist should solve the problem, and remember to feed regularly with a high potash feed to promote the production of flowers.
It can also be caused by inadequate pollination if the weather in early summer is cool and once the weather improves, so should pollination. You can try to hand-pollinate plants yourself by removing a male flower (no swelling at their base) and brushing the central parts against the centre of a female flower (female flowers have a swelling at the base which is the beginning of the fruit).
Courgette rot is a common problem in damp weather. It often spreads from the faded flower into the end of the courgette itself. Never water plants from above – always direct water down onto the soil around the stem. Keep a close eye on plants during wet weather and remove any soggy flowers from the end of developing fruits.