Growing Real Food – Courgettes (zucchini)

One of the first crops everyone tells newbie growers to try is courgettes because they are simple to grow and you get “big bang for your bucks”.  However, if I am honest, I always struggled with growing courgettes.  I’ve tried different varieties over the years, in the grow house to varying degrees but all mostly disappointing.

That was until I decided to go against the grain this year and grow the plants outside, in a raised bed.  What a difference!  Now I know what all those courgette growers were talking about.

Courgette flower
Courgette flower

Quick courgette facts:

  • Zucchini and courgette, and indeed marrow, are all the same thing.  It’s just us British like to create our own names for nearly everything (even though it’s actually a French word).  We call a full grown courgette a marrow.  In Italy, USA and Australia the courgette is more commonly referred to as a zucchini and in Scandinavia it’s often called a squash or summer squash.  But it’s all the same vegetable.
  • It originated from Central/South America but really took off when it found it’s way over to Italy in the 1800’s.
  • Courgettes are full of Vitamin A and C both good for your immune system.  As well as that they also hold potassium which reduces blood pressure.
  • The flowers are edible.
  • In terms of yield, in a smaller garden even just one plant can provide up to 12 courgettes which is why they are so good to grow.

How to Grow Courgettes:

By the middle of the summer you’ll often see someone you know trying to excitedly offload their weight in courgettes because they just can’t use them quick enough.  In fact courgettes are so quick and easy to grow I can’t understand why I struggled before.  The key was where I grew them.

  • Sow seeds indoors, in pots from April
  • Plant out once the risk of frost if over.
  • Sow seeds directly to soil outside from May to June.
  • Pick your spot to grow the plants.  They like a sunny, sheltered – outside spot.  My experience of growing them under cover is that they get far too leggy, prone to mould quicker and don’t get pollinated properly.  The plants are hardier that I realised.
  • They can be grown in containers and don’t actually need that much root space, however, the smaller the pot the more watering will be required.
  • In a square foot bed (1m x 1m) you can grow 1 plant
  • Courgettes are water hungry plants so ensure you’ve added as much mulch to the area before planting (if growing in the ground), and add mulch around the plant (in the ground and in containers) to retain as much moisture as possible.
  • Plant flowers (particularly calendula) around, or near to the plants to encourage pollination of the flowers.  Alternatively, grow two plants near to each other.
  • The plant begins to flower 6-8 weeks after planting and a week after that you’ll begin to see courgettes.
  • Water the plants at this point with tomato feed to encourage more flowers.  Feeding once a week/fortnight is more than enough.
  • The more you harvest the more the plant will crop.
  • Don’t do what I did and in pure excitement twist the crop straight off the plant, as it can damage the rest of the plant.  Cut the courgettes stalks with a knife or scissors.

It’s been a particularly hard growing season this year when I live.  The days didn’t start to warm up until late June.  And we’ve had more rain than sun since…well since last year really. I was being rather optimistic in May when I sowed my first batch of courgettes in the raised bed.  Every seed germinated and was then promptly eaten by slugs and snails so I had to sow again, and those also got eaten.  In the end I had to buy a couple of plants and sow some more.  However in the last two weeks all the plants just suddenly took off, started flowering and I’ve now got a batch of courgettes to harvest.

So don’t give up.  The plants were certainly hardy against less than favourable weather, they just couldn’t beat off the slimey critters.  Even with wool pellets.  Next year I’d probably grow the plants from seed in pots and keep a few extra as back up.  At least growing in a pot to begin with it allows the plants to grow to a good size against any pests!

Diseases

Two things to look out for:

  1. Powdery mildew -when the foliage starts to look like it’s been covered with Talc you know your plant has been attacked by fungus.  This is largely prevented by even watering and allowing air to circulate around the plants.  Don’t overwater, muclch well and ensure the each plant has enough space around it.
  2. Brown rot – the end of the courgette fruit begins to turn mouldy.  Ensure you remove the flowers from the fruit once it starts to develop because otherwise the flower will be collecitng unnecessary moisture around the fruit causing it to go mouldy.  Growing under glass also causes greater fluctuations in temperatures which mould loves.  So again, make sure the plants have plenty of space and circulation of air.

Storage

Courgettes are not great at being stored.  Once picked they can be kept fresh for up to a week (in the fridge) but you can’t freeze them well, due to their high water content.  You can of course freeze them but they will be rather mushy once back to room temperature.

They are however fantastic for pickling and making chutney with.  Or alternatively, go and spread the bounty to all your friends!

Until next week, wishing you all a great Green week.

Question of the week:  Which vegetable, do you grow, that brings you the biggest harvest from just one plant?

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7 thoughts on “Growing Real Food – Courgettes (zucchini)

  1. In answer to your question, lettuce is a good one this year, as you can eat the lot and they have been growing great.

    None of my courgette seeds grew this year, so I am disappointed about that. Glad you have had success now.

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    1. Do you know, that is the one crop I have real difficulty growing. I’ve tried inside/outside – all different times of yr and still I just get either a few or no plants what so ever. If you have any tips please share because I’d love to be able to grow it.

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      1. This is the first year I’ve had any success. I think that might be about to change as the weather has heated up, though.

        Apart from it being cooler this summer, I would say the big difference for me between this year and previously is to sow the seeds in pots and after germination put the seedlings in the ground.

        Also, I think they prefer lighter rather than heavier soils. The lettuce seedlings I’ve been growing in compost seem to be much heartier and quick growing than the ones in my soil.

        It’s funny how some stuff just doesn’t grow, isn’t it? For me, it’s spinach.

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  2. You can spray sulfur on your leaves every seven days to prevent powdery mildew, if you like.

    And to answer your question, normally I would say a tomato our sweet potato or even jalapeno, but this year it’s definitely my gray zucchini plants. They took a pause in production recently because I wasn’t spraying for powdery mildew and had to lop off most of the leaves, but they’re back at it again.

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