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July 21, 2010 / Malcolm Dalebö

Growing Courgettes

  • Courgettes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow and will rarely disappoint.
  • Give them decent soil and plenty of water, and each plant will produce up to 20 fruits (they’re small, summer squashes – baby marrows in fact).
  • There are plenty of these prolific performers to choose from, and not all of them green and straight. You could try a yellow, white or striped variety, or even an attractive ball-shaped courgette.
  • The plants themselves come in two types. 
    • The majority grow as relatively compact bushes. 
    • A select few climbing or trailing varieties, such as Tromboncino and Black Forest, can be trained up supports or over archways.

  • You’ll need to be vigilant once the young fruits start to develop, as they can grow to harvest size within a couple of days.
  • Pick them regularly and they’ll crop for most of the season. 
  • The flowers can also be stuffed as an attractive gourmet treat.
  • Courgettes prefer heavier soils; they do best in positions where there is shelter from cold winds and they must have a sunny site. 
  • When preparing the ground, add plenty of manure and compost where the plants are to grow. 
  • Begin by digging a trench 4 in. (101mm) deep put in the manure then dig another putting the soil from this into the first trench. 
  • This will form a ridge; the courgettes can be planted into the ridges, 3 ft. (90cm) apart.
  • You can buy courgettes as young plants but they are so easy to grow from seed that it seems pointless to run to the extra expense. 
  • If you have a greenhouse, cold frame or well-lit windowsill, seeds should be sown now. 
  • Otherwise, sow them directly outdoors in May, when frost is less likely.
  • If starting the seedlings of indoors, then sow the seed mid March through to late May.
    • Put two seeds into each pot ½ in. (12mm) deep, at a temperature of 65 to 70 deg F. (18 to 21 deg C.) the weaker one can be removed if they both germinate. 
    • Harden off the young plants by putting the first sowing into cold frames at the end of May. 
    • Plant them out after about two or three weeks along the ridges when the chance of frost has passed.

  • Sowing direct into the ground, perhaps into ridges, where they are to grow involves sowing two seeds per station.
    • The sowing can be done in mid May until early June at about 3 ft. (90cm) apart. 
    • When the seeds have germinated they can be thinned out removing the less vigorous seedling.
  • Water the pots well before planting out. 
  • Avoid holding the plants by their stems as they are easily bruised causing them irreparable damage. 
  • If the weather is cool cover each plant with a cloche for the first week to give them a little warmth and protection. 
  • A useful technique is to use a half of a clear plastic 5 litre mineral water bottle. 
    • Cut the bottle into half, the bottle makes two excellent cloches. 
    • The top half, whilst giving protection also allows air and moisture through the neck of the bottle onto the plants. 
    • To prevent flying insects entering through the neck, you may want to secure a small piece of fleece with an elastic band.
  • Plenty of water is essential, especially when the plants are in flower and then when the fruits have started to swell. Mulch to lock in moisture.
  • If you dig in plenty of manure before planting, additional feeding is unnecessary on heavy, fertile soil.
  • On sandy or light soil, regular drenches with a liquid feed will help boost production.
  • Cold conditions could restrict the activity of pollinating insects and so the fruits may fail to set. 
  • Should pollination failure happen, it may be necessary to assist with pollination by removing a male flower and gently brushing it against the female flowers, which can be distinguished from those of the male, by the slight swelling behind the flower.
  • To keep plants productive you need to harvest courgettes about three times a week at the height of the season.
  • Harvest courgettes when they are about 10cm (4in) long. 
  • Let them grow longer and they will gradually turn into poor marrows and loose their delicate taste and texture. 
  • By harvesting young you will encourage more fruit to appear.
  • Either cut them off with a sharp knife or twist them off with your hands.
  • Courgettes are best eaten fresh or can be stored for a few days in the fridge.
  • Courgettes do freeze well, with a little preparation. 
    • Wash the courgettes and dry them with kitchen paper. 
    • Slice them to about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick – do not peel them. 
    • Prior to freezing, the courgettes should be cooked. 
    • Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the sliced courgettes on a low heat until tender (about 5 minutes).
    • Place the cooked courgettes on a tray and allow them to cool. 
    • Pack them in a freezer bag, separating usable portions with cling film. 
    • Place the labelled and dated bag in the freezer. 
    • They will keep for 3 months in a standard freezer.
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