Growing your own fruit and veg has many health benefits, but there are practical benefits too, particularly if there’s a sudden shortage of fresh, organic produce in your local shops. Whether supply is affected by adverse weather, transport issues or a global pandemic – growing your own means you’ll always have access to fresh, healthy vegetables to feed your family.
What could be better than growing courgettes from seed in your own garden? Not only do they taste better, they require fewer pesticides, no plastic packaging and generate zero food miles. Here’s everything you need to know to avert a courgette shortage and grow your own at home…
Less is more…
Courgettes, also called zucchini, belong to the same family as pumpkins and squashes, and are one of the easiest vegetables to grow. If picked regularly, each plant will continue to produce vast quantities of delicious, nutty and flavoursome fruits, right through to October. Added to which, the large yellow flowers are also edible, with a slightly sweet ‘nectar’ taste.
You don’t need an allotment garden or veg patch to grow fresh produce. Courgettes can be grown in large pots and containers on your patio. On average, each courgette plant produces 4-5 fruits per week so you’ll only need two or three plants to feed a family – any more and you’re likely to end up with a glut!
How to sow, grow and max your courgette harvest
- Sow courgette seeds into individual 10cm pots of general purpose potting compost. Courgettes have a very high germination rate, but sow a couple more than you need, just in case. Water the pot until the compost is moist.
- Place the pots in a warm place like a windowsill, but out of direct sunlight. Continue to grow indoors until they’re ready to harden off and plant out. Wait until after all chance of frost has passed.
- For planting out, courgettes prefer a sheltered position in full sun. They’re reasonably large plants, so space them at least 60cm apart. Alternatively they can be grown in large containers on a patio. Protect young plants from slugs and snails in their early stages.
- Give them a mulch of 5cm of compost to help the soil hold moisture. In times gone by, courgettes were planted on the top of compost heaps because they enjoyed the high level of nutrients this gave them.
- Water your courgettes every day. Keep the soil just moist but water at the base of the plant only or they’ll rot.
- Try to give your plants a weekly liquid feed once they start flowering, and pick the courgettes regularly when they reach about 10cm long. This will ensure a delicious crop right through to October.
Growing problems and remedies
In good conditions and normal weather you’re unlikely to encounter any problems growing courgettes. But here are some of the most common problems, with tips on how to remedy them.
- Powdery Mildew is a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface caused by too much humidity and insufficient air circulation. To prevent, don’t plant your courgettes too close together, water the base of the plant, and keep the soil moist.
- Grey mould (botrytis) is a common disease, especially in damp or humid conditions like a greenhouse, and appears as a grey, fuzzy fungal growth that starts as pale patches. The best way to deal with this is to cut out and remove any damaged plant parts. Reduce the humidity in your greenhouse through ventilation and don’t overcrowd young plants and seedlings.
- Reduced fruiting: A lack of fruit is usually caused by the growing conditions and not by a pest or disease. Cool weather in early summer can sometimes cause inadequate pollination, and if you start your courgettes in a greenhouse, remember to open the doors often to let pollinators in. Water your plants every day and pick the fruits regularly to make sure they keep producing.
Courgettes are never dull
Growing your own courgettes allows you to experiment with varieties that you can’t buy in the supermarket, including those with interesting round, striped or yellow fruits. Popular varieties to try include:
- Defender – almost twice the yield of other varieties
- Black Beauty – dark green fruits with lovely flavour
- Parador – yellow fruits, smooth texture and mild flavour
- Eclipse – round, striped fruits
- Zephyr – pretty two-tone fruits
- Courgette ‘De Nice A Fruit Rond’ – golf ball sized, fruits that are delicious raw
In the right conditions, your courgettes will grow rapidly, maturing into large marrows and squashes in just a matter of days if not picked quickly enough. Plan plenty of recipe ideas in advance so you’re ready when it’s time to harvest – salads, soups, pasta dishes and even cake recipes will keep this easy-to-grow vegetable from ever becoming boring! For more courgette advice & harvesting tips, check our our helpful courgette hub page.
Since the first seed catalogue was published in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has grown to become one of the UK’s largest Mail Order Seed and Plant companies. Through the publication of our catalogues and the operation of our award-winning website, Thompson & Morgan is able to provide home gardeners with the very best quality products money can buy.