If there’s one vegetable that I never grow tired of, it would have to be the humble courgette (or zucchini). I have been growing them for many years now and every summer I’m swamped in fruit of various sizes and colours.
Although my vegetable plot is of a reasonable size, I tend to grow mostly the crops that are expensive to buy in the shops. Courgettes or no exception.
Courgette is a member of the summer squash family and there are hundreds of highly nutritious and delicious varieties to choose from. From glossy dark cylindrical fruits to yellow mini pumpkin-like balls, flavours will vary, as will texture and culinary usage. Growing courgettes is highly rewarding and pretty easy; young plants will soon establish themselves and rapidly produce a daily crop over a many of the warmest months of summer.
This can’t be easier. A perfect project for your children or grandchildren to get involved in. Sow seeds individually in compost-filled 3in pots from mid-March until the last week of May. Push each large seed 1inch into the compost, edge first so that it rests on its side. Pot your plants on once roots begin to appear out of the bottom of the pot.
Once the risk of frost has passed, accustomise your courgettes plants to outside temperatures by leaving them out during the day and bringing them in at night. This process is known to gardeners as ‘hardening off’. Repeat this for about a week.
Once hardened off, plant your courgettes either straight into a well-manured plot or in grow-bags. I have had the best results from growing each plant in the top of a 1foot high mound of compost of manure.
Courgettes demand plenty of water, but as with most plants, ensure your chosen plot has good drainage. This is why adding compost or manure to your soil is a good idea – paradoxically, organic matter in soil both improves drainage and retains moisture, ensuring the optimal growing conditions for your plants. Also, it’s a good idea to establish several plants on the same patch – 24inches apart. Although they will self-pollinate, the more of the large yellow flowers you have, the higher the chances of successful pollination, leading to (of course), more fruit.
To get the most out of your crop, provide a good organic liquid feed on a weekly basis. To encourage a bumper supply of fruits, pick young 4in courgettes (common varieties) 3 or 4 times a week. This will encourage plenty of new flowers and fruit growth. Neglecting your plants during harvest will result in the development of several large and tasteless marrows.
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