|Official Plant Name||Cucurbita pepo|
|Common Name(s)||Courgette / Zucchini|
|Plant Type||Fruit (commonly believed to be a vegetable)|
|Native Area||N/A (Cultivated)|
|Foliage||Large edible leaves|
|Flowers||Yellow, edible, followed by the edible fruit|
|When To Sow||April, May, June|
|Harvesting Months||July, August, September, October|
|When To Prune||August, September, October|
June – September
Moist but well drained
A tasty and delicious treat, courgettes are an ideal addition to your vegetable patch.
With sunlight and regular watering, your family will be adding courgettes to every meal in no time!
Courgettes, also known as Zucchini, are a ‘summer squash’ that were originally cultivated in North America. They can reach up to 1 meter in length, and are part of the ‘Cucurbitaceae’ family which also contains familiar plants such as squash, pumpkins and gourds.
If you’ve not seen a courgette before, they are green in appearance and sometimes have streaks of yellow. They’re a firm fruit (often mistaken for a vegetable) and while the outside has a thick green skin, the inside of a courgette is lighter, with a very light yellow interior. They can be cut into strips, sliced, diced or even grated to create a delicious addition to your home-cooked meals.
Below, we explore some of the reasons to grow your own courgettes at home, some tips and tricks to grow a bountiful crop and some advice on caring for your delicious green veggies.
Tips for growing courgettes at home
Growing your own vegetables sounds daunting but, once you get started, can become a really enjoyable and exciting activity! Watching your seeds grow into full-sized vegetables can be very rewarding, and it can even provide a fun family activity for couples and families, suitable for kids of all ages to get involved with. Below, we look at some tips for growing your courgettes at home.
Where should I grow my courgettes?
Initially, you will want to sow your seeds in an indoor pot or module tray. It’s important that you sow courgette seeds on their sides initially, to help them push through the soil a little easier.
A veg patch is a perfect spot for growing your courgette seeds outside as they enjoy positions in full sun with moist soil. If you don’t have the luxury of a vegetable patch, find a sunny spot in your garden with plenty of space for your courgettes. Remember to acclimatise your veggies first with some shorter periods outdoors (for between ten to fourteen days) before leaving them out in the warm sun permanently.
For optimum growth, use free-draining soils enriched with natural materials such as horse manure and homemade compost – courgettes thrive in moist soil conditions, so regular watering is important.
What’s the best time to grow courgettes?
After sowing indoors, you can plant outside once the last frost has been and gone – late May/early June is usually safe. If you’re unable to grow them inside initially, you can plant the seeds directly into your veg patch or outdoor space in June.
If (in the typical unpredictable fashion of British weather!) the air suddenly turns cool after you’ve planted them outside, cover them with a cloche or a fleece to protect them from the colder overnight temperatures. Doing so can also help prevent one of the most common diseases that courgettes face called ‘Powdery Mildew’ – more on this later in the article.
How long does it take to grow courgettes?
If you’ve started with seeds in April, your courgettes should be ready to pick in late July or early August, ideal for a summer salad! It’s important to check them regularly in that time, to stop them from growing too large. Unfortunately, courgettes left to grow bigger than 10cm or so can lose their delicious flavours and smooth textures, so regular picking is important to preserve crop health and flavour.
Caring for your courgettes
Now you’ve learnt some top tips on getting started with your courgettes, there are a few things to think about when caring for your tasty summer vegetables.
How to take care of them
As mentioned above, it’s important that they’re kept in full sunlight and covered if the weather suddenly turns mild. Courgettes need plenty of space to grow, so space each plant 60-90cm apart for maximum growth.
It’s important that their soil is kept moist at all times, so be sure to regularly water the soil to keep the environment optimal for growth. However, when watering, don’t water the courgettes themselves – instead, water the soil around them to keep their environment moist and nutritious.
When to harvest
Generally speaking, courgettes can be regularly harvested when they are around 10cm long, or 4-5 inches. You only need one or two plants to grow a large family of courgettes, so don’t be afraid to pick the smaller ones more regularly to encourage a long cropping period. They also grow back very quickly, making them the perfect addition to your summer BBQs!
Which pests and diseases should I be aware of?
Slugs and snails
There are a couple of common pests and diseases that might affect your crop of courgettes. The most common enemies of outdoor plants in general are slugs and snails, and particularly so for young courgettes. The best way to deal with this on a vegetable patch is by using slug pellets and/or a physical barrier to deter them, especially in the crucial early growing stages. Once the courgettes are older and stronger, these can be removed and the courgettes will be able to handle slug and snail damage.
One of the most common diseases that affects courgettes (as well as other plants and trees) is the ‘Powdery Mildew’ fungus, which looks exactly as it sounds! It will be obvious if your plants are affected, as the fungal disease appears with white spots or patches on the leaves.
It mainly attacks when there are uneven temperatures and water levels, often caused by cooler nights and warmer days in the summer months. It’s important also to check that your soil is draining freely and that each of your courgettes have enough space to grow, and aren’t overcrowded. Once you’ve removed the affected leaves, add some additional grass clippings or compost to your soil to retain moisture, and keep up-to-date with your regular watering schedule!
Another common garden fungal disease is ‘Furasium Fungus’. It’s particularly attracted to plants and vegetables as it survives indefinitely and spreads by contaminating soil – this means that it can quickly spread between plants in a close proximity, such as those in a vegetable patch.
The Furasium works its way into the roots of young vegetables and plants and blocks the cells which absorb and transport nutrients and water to the plant. Generally, it manifests as wilting initially, followed by a lack of plant growth which may then lead to the plant dying.
Although it sounds scary, it can be prevented with good hygiene practices – rotating plants and sterilising any new plants which are added to the garden or vegetable patch.
What if my courgettes begin to rot?
Courgette rot or ‘Blossom End Rot’ will turn one end of your vegetables a yellow or brown colour. If only a small portion is affected, you can safely cut off the end and enjoy the rest of the vegetable. However, if the entire plant is yellow or brown in colour, there’s no going back.
Blossom end rot tends to happen if the courgettes are low on calcium, which is usually as a result of underwatering. A lack of water also means a lack of calcium, so the plant won’t be able to draw up the calcium through its roots – this is another reason why regular watering is so crucial for a healthy crop. If you’ve been religious with your watering routine, check the pH levels of your soil, and add calcium if there is a major deficiency.
Luckily, it’s not contagious! Simply pick the affected courgettes, and keep a closer eye on your watering schedule and pH levels to prevent it from happening again.
All in all, courgettes are a wonderful addition to an outdoor vegetable patch.
When growing your own courgettes at home, don’t forget to:
- Grow them indoors from seedlings
- Water the soil regularly, keeping it moist
- Keep your courgettes in the sun, once they’re outside
- Check for pests and diseases
- Regularly pick them to encourage a long crop
- Pick a maximum of 2 days before adding them to your delicious dinners!
Enjoy your courgettes!
Sophie is a freelance writer who loves the great outdoors, travel and learning new things. Juggling motherhood with a passion for writing, Sophie loves to give guidance and help others with her work.