How to grow courgettes – an easy beginner’s guide
- By: Ashley Saunders
- June 2020
It’s very easy to grow courgettes and they always produce a plentiful crop. As a summer squash from the Cucurbitaceae plant family, courgettes come from the same family as melons, spaghetti squash, and cucumbers.
As a fast-growing vegetable, courgette plants need plenty space to grow. However, many gardeners have successfully grown them in big pots or growing bags. So even if you’re limited on space, you still can try to grow courgettes!
Courgettes have multiple health benefits as they are abundant in several vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are also rich in water and fibre. Adding courgettes to your diet can help reduce the risk of constipation, symptoms of various gut disorders and blood sugar levels.
As a vegetable rich in water and fibre yet low in calories, eating courgettes helps to reduce the feeling of hunger and could help you lose weight over time. So, how do we grow courgettes?
Interesting courgettes facts!
They’re called zucchinis in the USA, Australia and Germany.
Even though courgettes are served as a vegetable, it’s technically a fruit because it comes from a flower.
Christopher Columbus originally brought the seeds to the Mediterranean region and Africa.
According to the Guinness World Records, the heaviest courgette was grown by Bernard Lavery of Llanharry, Rhondda Cynon Taff in 1990 and it weighed in at 29.25 kg.
The peel is a good source of dietary fibre and may help in reducing constipation.
Courgettes have been used in folk medicine to treat colds, aches, and various health conditions. However, not all of its uses are backed by science.
When deciding on a where to grow courgettes within your veg plot, you want to select a place that gets plenty of sun. You want to avoid shade or partial shade as courgettes don’t grow as well in these conditions.
As a fast-growing crop, they need plenty of water to aid their development. So it’s worth positioning your crop near a water source to allow for easy watering.
In terms of the soil, courgettes need lots of nutrients especially nitrogen. It’s worth covering your plot in compost or manure a few weeks before planting and allowing it to rot into the grow as this will increase the soil’s richness.
There are many fantastic varieties of courgettes you can grow and the RHS recommends the following.
Its compact growing habit makes this courgette ideal for areas with restricted room.
‘El Greco’ AGM
Plants have an open growth habit, making picking easy of this prolific cropper.
‘Tiger Cross’ AGM
This is a marrow variety, producing large striped fruits, good for winter storage.
A compact courgette producing a large crop over a long season, with smooth, spine-free stems.
As they don’t mind being transplanted, you can start to grow courgettes from seeds indoors and then move them into your veg patch as temperatures increase. Of course, you can continue to grow them in pots, if you lack space.
At the end of April, fill a 10 cm pot with general-purpose potting compost. Make a small hole on top and sow one courgette seed. Water the pot until the compost is moist. Finally, move pots to a warmish place.
As seeds start to sprout, move pots into a sunny position, just out of direct sunlight. Windowsills are fine but beware of cold night temperatures as they can damage your seedlings.
Towards the end of May, gradually harden off young plants for a week. They’ll be ready to be transplanted outside into your veg patch by the last week of May.
To successfully transplant, dig your soil to the same depth as the pot and plant the seedlings into the ground. Carefully compact the soil around them. You’ll want to space seedlings at 90 cm to allow each plant space to grow and fully develop.
How to nurture courgettes
In addition to nutrient-rich soil, courgettes need regular watering. You can add either mulch or a layer of grass clippings halfway through June as this will add further nutrients and reduce the need for watering.
When watering avoid the leaves and the soil immediately around the stems. Instead, water around 10 cm from the stem as this will allow the water to reach the roots and prevent the top of the plant from rotting.
As fruits start to swell, it’s worth feeding the plants every 10-14 days with a high potash liquid fertiliser.
As courgettes are fast-growing vegetable, at the height of production, you might end up harvesting 2 or 3 times a weeks. This does mean you want to harvest the fruit when smaller-sized. Firstly, it tastes much better and allows the plant to continue to grow more crop.
You can, of course, grow courgettes to a larger size, however, this does take a lot of energy. So, you’ll find the plant stops producing fresh fruits and instead focuses on its current ones.
When they are ready to harvest, use a sharp knife to cut the fruit at the base. Be careful not to damage the plant as this will hinder future fruit from growing. Within a few days of harvesting your courgettes, you’ll see new crops start to appear.
You can also eat the flowers, which are the perfect garnish for a salad.
How to store fresh courgettes
You can store courgettes in the fridge if you plan to use them within a few days or in the freezer if you’ll use them within a few months. Flowers don’t store well and so you’ll want to eat them soon.
To store in your fridge, take the whole dry, unwashed fruit and wrap it in either a plastic or paper bag with one end open to encourage air circulation. Place in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. They should keep up to 2 weeks, although the skin will start to shrivel over time.
If you need to store them for longer, then you’ll want to blanch and store in the freezer. They should keep for up to 3 months.
To properly blanch, you want to slice your courgettes into 2 cm long sections and place them in salted boiling water for a minute or two. Immediately, drain them in a colander and allow to cool. When cold, pack portions into freezer bags and freeze.
Common pests and problems
Part of growing any vegetable or plant in your garden is having to deal with pests and diseases. And choosing to grow courgettes is no different. Thankfully, there aren’t too many problems to be aware of.
General pests such as aphids and whiteflies
Many insects see your courgettes as a buffet waiting to happen! Most of these pests can be easily dealt with insecticidal soap or pesticides.
Slugs and snails
Both will feed on seedlings and you’ll notice their slime trails on the soil and leaves! Thankfully, you can easily control slugs and snails by numerous methods including sawdust, eggshell barriers and copper tape.
This appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface. The result is leaves become stunted and shrivel. You will need to keep the soil moist and ensure you’re growing in a fairly cool location.
Grey mould (botrytis)
Typically beginning with pale or discoloured patches, grey mould is a fairly common disease in damp or humid conditions. You’ll want to remove damaged plant parts before they can become infected.
No fruit, or fruit rotting when very small
Caused by the growing conditions and not a pest or disease. It is caused by inadequate pollination that’s a result of cool weather in early summer. Thankfully, this is usually a temporary problem and as the weather starts to improve, plants will be pollinated.
That’s how to grow courgettes!
Now that you’ve tried to grow courgettes, it’s worth expanding your vegetable patch and trying potatoes, beetroot and onions or even have a go at growing bell peppers. All are food staples and will provide you with a range of homegrown crops to enjoy.
By growing vegetables, you cut your carbon miles and do a little to help the environment. And that’s how to grow courgettes!