Growing courgettes, or to use their other name growing zucchini, is a pleasure – that is, providing you like courgettes, because once a courgette plant gets going, it is very easy to get a glut!
Courgette is a type of summer squash and part of the gourd family. Courgettes and marrows are very closely related, but they are different varieties even though a large courgette looks like a marrow.
Marrows, in fact, are specially bred to grow large and have a thicker skin, where as courgettes have a relatively thin skin that is prone to splitting as they grow bigger.
- April – June
- Planting depth: 2.5 cm
- Planting spacing: 90 cm between plants, 90 cm between rows
- June to October
- Best eaten fresh. Chop, blanch, and freeze.
It is worth having a plan for what to do with your courgettes when they are in harvest as, unlike winter squashes, courgettes do not store well. Possible uses for courgettes are in stir fry, lasagna type dishes, or curry, but I can also recommend courgette wine and even courgette cake.
Courgettes are generally reputed to have a better flavour and texture than marrows, but that is not to say that a large stuffed baked marrow is not delicious!
Like many squash varieties, courgettes do not like cold weather at all. The good news is that courgettes are a vigorous plant, so even if you start sowing in late April (perhaps in a pot on a sunny windowsill) or direct outside in May when there is no chance of a late frost, then there is still ample time to enjoy a bumper harvest from July onwards.
Courgettes enjoy sunny weather but it is essential to water them regularly and thoroughly throughout their growing cycle, and especially during the flowering and fruiting season.
Their young leaves are a delicacy for slugs and snails so you may want to take precautions against attack. However, once their adult leaves have formed, the plants are very robust and suffer few problems.
I like to plant out seedlings with a slight concave depression surrounding the plant, so that water naturally flows toward it during watering, and with a rich mixture of manure and compost underneath the seedling. Courgettes are a very greedy plant.
Courgette bushes can grow quite large and I leave at least 1 metre in all directions around my bushes.
When a courgette plant is in robust health it has the potential to shoot out flowers and courgettes at a rate faster than it is possible to eat. I now plan for only two courgette plants for my family, but grow an additional two plants as a precaution against loss.
Courgettes are best picked when they are between 10-20 centimetres in length. At this size they have their best flavour and most soft skin. Picking early also encourages more fruit to develop.
When the courgette plant is in peak health, baby courgettes can swell extremely quickly into a size more like a marrow. In wet weather, you may need to keep a daily eye on the courgettes if you want to pick them at the perfect size.
By late summer, it is common for courgettes to experience powdery mildew on their leaves. My experience is that this is nothing to worry about, as although it indicates the plant is past its best, by that stage of the summer it can come as a relief not to have any more courgettes to eat!
See courgette varieties.