How To Grow Courgettes

How To Grow Courgettes

Courgettes are easy to grow with two plants producing ample courgettes for most families. Courgettes are best picked small for best flavour, these plants are also very prolific so don't worry there will be another one along in a minute! Courgettes are not frost hardy which means plant them out in June when the risk of frosts has passed.

Sowing courgette seeds in organic seed compost

Sowing Courgettes

You can sow Courgettes either inside or outside depending on the weather where you live. I think it's safer to sow indoors and plant out later and this is what we'll be doing in this article.

Sow your courgette seeds in small 7cm pots of fine seed compost. Place one seed about 1/2 inch deep in each pot. Gently water and leave indoors on a warm, south facing windowsill or in a propagator if you want to get them going quickly.

Courgettes will also be fine in an unheated greenhouse or poly tunnel but you must cover them with fleece at night to protect them from possible frost damage.

Keep the compost reasonably moist but don't over water while the seed is germinating.

Potting On

After about 3 weeks your courgette plant will have used up most of the nutrients in the small pot of seed compost but it's still too cold to plant out.

Removing a new courgette plant from pot for potting on

We now need to pot the young plant on to a larger pot of fresh compost and more room form the roots to grow.

Use 12cm pots filled with a good quality multi purpose compost. Make a hole in the compost in the large pot about the size of the smaller 7cm pot.
Gently remove the seedling and plant it in its new home.
Firm the compost in around the roots to give a tight seal.
Water well and continue to keep indoors, keep the fleece on at night time for a week or two to be on the safe side.

Hardening Off

Plants that have been raised indoors will need to get used to the outdoor temperature and conditions before they can be planted outside, this will take about a week to 10 days depending on the weather.

Use a cold frame for hardening off courgette plantsThe best way is to use a cloche or mini greenhouse. You can leave the cloche off the plants on dry frost free days and replace at night. Gradually increase the time with the cloche removed until the end of the week when you leave it off day and night.
If the weather is mild you may not need the cloche, just move the plants outside for longer periods each day.

If you have started your seeds on a windowsill you will need to leave them in an unheated room for a day or two before moving outside to the cloche.

Planting Out Courgette Seedling Plants

Don't plant out your courgettes if cold, windy weather is forecast. You're better off waiting for more favourable conditions as your baby courgettes will hate it!

A large helathy courgette plant You need to pick a sheltered sunny spot which is protected from strong winds as courgettes are not hardy plants. If you don't have one you'll have to continue growing indoors.Courgette plants take up a huge amount of space, much bigger than you think looking at your tidy little plant. The leaves are huge and will shade out anything growing nearby so take this into account when planting them. Planting distance is 1 metre between plants, this will look enormous when you do it but believe me, they'll soon fill the space. You could plant some lettuce seedlings in between for a quick salad crop before the courgettes fill the space.

Courgettes are hungry plants and will benefit from a rich soil. Sprinkle some seaweed / poultry manure pellets a metre around the planting hole. Be aware the roots of the plant will spread as much as the foliage so the soil need to be fertilized to that distance.

Slugs can also be a problem so either sprinkle an organic slug pellet around the plant or use a beer trap to control your slug population.

Crop Care

Keep the soil around the plants moist, water heavily around the plants (not over them) in dry weather.
Mulch around courgette plants with strawKeep the soil around the plants moist, water heavily around the plants (not over them) in dry weather.

I like to mulch around the plants with straw as it helps moisture retention but also keeps the developing fruits off the ground. Make sure you keep an eye out for slugs at this stage as the broad, shady leaves make a lovely dark habitat for them. If the weather is cold or it's early in the season you may need to hand pollinate your plants. This will increase the amount of fruit set.

male and female courgette flowersCourgette plants have separate male and female flowers. You can tell the difference by looking at the stalk as the male one id plain but the female carries a little fruit just below the flower. The photo shows the two at a quite advanced stage but you can easily tell the difference earlier on.

You can transfer pollen from the male to the female flowers with a soft brush or you can remove the stamen (like a little magic wand) from the male flower and rub it on the inside of the female.

Harvesting Courgettes

Harvest your courgettes as soon as they reach the required size. The first one or two courgettes tend to rot at the ends, I'm not sure why this is but it's nothing to worry about.I find if you remove the flowers as the fruits swell it will be less of a problem.

Close up of courgette fruitCourgettes get big very quickly and at full production you can be harvesting two or 3 times a week. For this reason I'd harvest the fruit when quite small, it tastes much better and there will be another along in a couple of days anyway. You can if you wish let the courgettes grow on to marrow size but this will take a lot of energy from the plant thus stopping the growth of new fruits.

To harvest cut the fruit at the base with a sharp knife taking care not to damage the plant. Continual picking is important to keep the plant producing. It's also worth remembering that the flowers can also be eaten and are beautiful as a garnish on a bed of salad.