How To Grow Courgettes
Courgettes are so prolific and easy to grow that you'll be picking baskets full all summer! Much tastier than shop-bought, and you get the bonus of courgette flowers too. Here's how to grow them.
Most common Courgette plant questions
When can I plant Courgettes?
Courgettes are ready to plant outside from May to June. Make sure the last frost is gone and the weather has turned consistently warm.
What kind of soil do Courgettes need?
Courgettes need fertile, well-draining soil. It is always a good idea to work in a decent amount of organic matter such as garden compost into your garden soil until it becomes crumbly and rich. If your soil is very sandy or clay heavy then you should use a mix of three parts quality compost and one part garden top soil. Courgettes are particularly hungry plants so will do with an initial feed added to the soil such as chicken manure pellets to add a boost of nutrients. If possible you should add a layer of well-rotted manure to your soil the previous Autumn and let it break down. This will add extra nutrients to the soil as well as improve its texture.
Where should I position my Courgette plants?
Position courgette plants somewhere sheltered. Choose a spot where your plants will be protected from cold winds chilling them.
How much sun do Courgettes need?
Courgettes are best planted in full sun. Position your plants where they will receive 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day.
How far apart should I plant Courgettes?
How to plant Courgettes
Dig a hole big enough for the plant's roots to fit in plus a bit more space. Fill in with soil and firm in gently with your fingers. Give the soil a good watering to let the soil settle around the roots. You can form a little ring of soil around the plant, creating a small bowl, which will draw more water to the plant and keep the surrounding soil moist.
Can I grow Courgettes in pots?
You can plant Courgettes in pots, or even grow bags. If you are planting them in pots, the pot will need to be around 45cm wide, so usually about 40L. Again, dig a hole big enough for the plant's roots to fit in plus a bit more space. Fill in with soil and firm in gently with your fingers. Give the soil a good watering to let the soil settle around the roots. Due to the size required many people use grow bags when it comes to growing Courgettes. Again, the bag has to be about 45cm wide as Courgettes sprawl and take up a large amount of space.
How to feed Courgette plants
When the Courgette plant has begun flowering, start feeding it weekly. Use a fertilizer high in potash such as chicken manure pellets or liquid tomato feed. Potash, or potassium, is one of the three main elements in fertilisers along with nitrogen and phosphorus. Potash stimulates growth in the fruits and vegetables and so typically gardeners apply it as the plant begins to develop them.
How to care for Courgette plants
Courgettes benefit from a mulch such as a layer of manure or straw. This helps provide them with extra nutrients and also traps water in the soil. One issue that can occur with courgettes is a lack of pollination. To aid the process, you can use a small paintbrush and gently transfer pollen from one flower to another by gently brushing inside the middle of flowers, being sure to mix the yellow pollen together.
How to harvest Courgette plants
Courgettes are typically best harvested when they are around 10cm long. Varieties such as Tromboncino Albenga are better harvested when 25cm long. Ensure you harvest regularly as this will promote more courgettes to grow and encourage a more productive plant. Cut the courgette away at the soft stalk just above the fruit with a sharp, sterilized knife. In the case of the courgette, bigger is not better. The bigger the courgette becomes the harder the texture and the intensity of flavour decreases, even turning a little bitter.
Common Courgette plant problems
The most common cucumber pests and diseases are Powdery Mildew, Whitefly, Aphids, Slugs and Snails. The best protection against these scourges is to try and prevent too much water sitting on the leaves by watering in the morning and preventing splashing from the soil to the leaves. Also planting companion plants such as Marigolds will attract predators such as ladybirds and hoverflies which will eat the pests. See below for more information about each problem.
What is Powdery Mildew?
Powdery Mildew is a fungal disease that usually attacks the leaves and stems of a plant, leaving a white powdery residue. It can cause stunted growth and affect crop yields. Powdery mildew thrives in hot humid conditions. To prevent it from affecting your plant try to keep the ground free of weeds, water at the base of the plant in the morning so the day has enough time to evaporate away the surface water and try to prevent splashing from the ground to the leaves. Burn the leaves or bin them, do not put them into the compost. If your plant is suffering from powdery mildew then promptly prune away infected leaves at the stem with a sharp, sterilized tool. If you cut one leaf away be sure to sterilize the tool before touching another part of the plant or other plants in your garden as this can cause the infection to spread. You can then spray the plant down with a mix of one teaspoon of baking soda mixed with a litre of water.
Whiteflies look like small white moths and are most commonly found on the underside of leaves. If left unchecked they will feed on the leaves and turn them yellow. Your best, natural defence against whitefly is to simply spray your plant down with some water, aiming it at the whiteflies to try and wash them off. Make sure you check the whole plant and get as much off as possible. If the problem persists you can buy a special bug spray that specifically targets these pests and is safe to spray on your tomatoes. You can also plant companion plants such as Marigold near your tomatoes. Marigolds deter whiteflies as well as attracting ladybirds and hoverflies which will come and actually eat the whiteflies.
Aphids are small green bugs that cluster on the stems, particularly at the joints, and also the underside of leaves. They cause leaves and fruit to become discoloured and misshapen. Aphids also leave behind a sticky residue known as honeydew which can then promote the growth of a fungus known as sooty mould. Like Whiteflies, ladybirds and hoverflies enjoy eating aphids so planting Marigolds nearby will help control the pest. Also, the same chemical sprays that work for Whitefly tends to also work against aphids. You can also use soapy water to try and wash the aphids off of the plant.
Slugs and Snails
Slugs and Snails can quickly devour young plants and destroy them before they’ve even had a chance to grow. They can affect the fruit as well, causing what looks like little bite marks. If slugs and snails are an issue in your garden then first you should try and water your plants only in the morning, giving it time to evaporate from the surface. Slugs and snails only like moist conditions. You should also consider surrounding the plants with crushed eggshells, copper wire or diatomaceous earth which will form a protective barrier that they will really hate travelling over to get to your plants. Make sure the plants aren’t touching any other surfaces however for them to climb over to get to the plants. Another good organic method to get rid of slugs is using Nematodes. Nematodes are microscopic worms that essentially find slugs underground and cause them to die. They are completely harmless to other wildlife or your vegetables (or you when you eat your vegetables) and so are a great organic solution to slug damage. Make sure you read and follow the instructions on the packaging carefully.