Courgettes are one of most productive garden vegetables that is easy to grow, has few problems and is very rewarding.
In fact, the hardest part of growing courgettes is being creative with all the wonderful fruits they produce, as each plant could provide you with up to 5 kilos.
How To Grow Courgette:
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Courgette or zucchini plants are very prolific and high yielding, and because of this they need a highly fertile soil. They also prefer a well-drained bed so it is important that you dig some organic matter into the soil.
To create the perfect courgette bed, dig some well-rotted manure into the soil, either during the Autumn prior to planting or in late winter. In addition to the manure, just before planting, dress the bed with plenty of garden or municipal compost.
It would also be a good idea to add a little Fish, Blood and Bone fertilizer.
Sow courgettes indoors or in a greenhouse at the end of April or beginning of May. Use general all-purpose compost in about a 18cm pot, sowing the seed about 4cm deep.
Courgette seeds rarely fail, so one seed per pot would be the usual way to sow them, although it is recommended that you sow the seed lying on a side edge, rather than laying them flat, this will stop them from rotting in the wet compost.
Once they have grown to a healthy sized seedling, plant them on to their final growing place spacing each plant about a meter from each other.
We mulch each plant with straw, it helps to retain moisture in the soil and stops weeds from growing.
Once they start to fruit it is worth feeding the plants every week with a liquid tomato food to help them maintain their crops.
The most difficult decision to make when growing courgettes is how many plants you will need? We love courgettes and as they are such a versatile vegetable, we grow plenty, so by the time Autumn has arrived we have bags of frozen courgettes, a range of courgettes soups as well as ratatouille.
To give you an idea of how many plants you will need, each plant will produce around 30 courgettes, and to make a ratatouille for 4 you would use small to medium sized courgettes. I would suggest, that unless you love courgettes, start with 3 plants to see how well you get through them. Who knows, if you get the bug you could be growing 10 plants like us.
As with most vegetable plants slugs can be a problem, although a straw mulch and a few beer traps will definitely keep slug problems to a minimum.
Cucumber mosaic virus can also affect courgette plants, the virus causes leaves to have a yellow mottling and sometimes be distorted or stunted.
There is no control for this virus, but as they are transmitted by aphids, an effective control of greenfly and blackfly can help to check the virus. It would also be a good idea to dispose of infected plants washing your hands before handling any other plants.
Another problem that is perhaps more common on courgettes is powdery mildew. This is a fungal infection that coats the leaves with a white powdery substance.
Powdery mildew is often thought to be associated with lack of water, or water stress, but as this fungus has an unusually high water content itself, it does give it the ability to establish in very dry conditions which is unusual for a fungus, so it may be possible that the association with dry conditions is a bit misleading.
There is a milk treatment for powdery mildew that works as a preventative rather than a cure. The milk must be diluted with water making a spray with about 25% milk and sprayed on the plants every other week. Although this won’t cure the plant, if you remove infected leaves and spray new and emerging leaves then you should stop the mildew from spreading.
Collecting courgettes is easy, simply cut off the courgette at the size you like them, and similarly to other vegetables, the more you pick the more the plant will produce.
Courgettes are extremely versatile and if you have a glut of these vegetables, there are many things you can do to use them up.
If you are anything like us and can’t wait to start eating your own home grown vegetables, early new season courgettes will probably be the smallest you will pick. These are perfect for grilling and served with a salad, simply dressed with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper.
As a salad vegetable courgettes are perfect, pick larger fruits and slice them lengthways, pan fry them and cool them, then mix with any salad. This way of preparing them could also work well with pasta, with a tomato or pesto sauce.
If your courgettes get a bit too big you could slice them and use them as pasta sheets to make Lasagne, or cook them down with onions to make all sorts of soups. Here are some of our favourite soups; Courgette, Basil and Parmesan Soup, Courgette and Tomato Soup, Courgette and Goats Cheese Soup, and Thai Spiced Courgette and Coconut Soup.
Gigantic ones, those that hide and sneakily get bigger and bigger, are great grated and made into zucchini bread.
Courgettes can be used in tarts and quiches, in baking, for pickling or chutneys, stir fries, frittas and pizzas. Round courgettes can be stuffed and courgette flowers can be battered and fried.
You can also freeze courgettes, although the extra water content can
make them a bit soggy when defrosted. Because of this, don’t use water
to blanch them, instead lightly panfry them, cool them, tray up and
freeze, then use straight from the freezer as and when they are needed.
Take a look at the House And Garden website for 24 things to do with a courgette.