Best Way to Grow Courgettes
The, or , is really an immature or . The strains have been specially bred to provide a small, tender vegetable with a variety of culinary uses.
This is not just a smaller version of a larger vegetable, as development of courgette cultivars has produced a sweeter taste and greater succulence than is obtained by harvesting very young. Courgettes make an attractive side vegetable when sliced and steamed or lightly fried, are good ingredients for a wide range of mixed vegetable and casserole dishes, can be added to salads and are delicious baked with a vegetable or meat filling.
This is a crop you can enjoy growing as much as you enjoy eating the produce. Courgettes are not difficult to grow, though they do need regular attention.
Selectingfor indoor growing
Most of the best cultivars available currently are of American origin and are listed in seed catalogues under the American name – zucchini. Aristocrat is a prolific all-female hybrid producing fruits with rich dark green skins. These are borne upright on the stems. Blondie, an Fl hybrid, has a light creamy tone to the green skins and the white flesh inside. It is an early-maturing type which crops heavily. Another Fl hybrid, Gold Rush, is a good choice and has attractive golden-yellow colouring. None of these hybrids requires pollination.
Burpee Golden Zucchini is a rich butter yellow, a dual-purpose plant which is equally tasty cooked or sliced thinly into a salad. It is also an excellent choice for container growing as it is compact and bushy in habit. Two types identified as 554 and 565 Zucchini provide a large harvest of tender, small fruits. These are varieties which do need to be pollinated to set fruit.
Sowing and germination
A rich, fibrous potting medium is essential to successful growing of courgettes. If you use a commercial-based mixture, add some peat to provide the fibre content. If you can make up your own growing medium, I recommend a mixture of one part loam, two parts peat and one part well-rotted horse manure for good results.
Sow the seed in early or mid spring, depending upon the conditions you can provide. To ensure germination, a minimum temperature of 60°F (15°C) must be maintained. Seeds are sown on edge, two to a 3in (8cm) pot, and covered with a Vim (1cm) layer of growing medium. Germination takes up to eight days.
As soon as thehave developed four true leaves following the appearance of the cotyledons, they should be transplanted to larger pots. They can complete their development in 5in (13cm) pots, so only one repotting is necessary. This minimizes root disturbance.
Watering should be moderate but frequent. It is best to use a spray to moisten thegently and create humidity around the plants. Whatever your method, do not allow pools of water to form on the soil surface or around the base of the pot; this indicates that the compost is saturated, a poor condition for encouraging the growth of courgettes. Stand the pots on trays of pebbles to allow water to drain freely.
As soon the plants begin to grow vigorously upwards, provide canes to support the main stems. Some varieties tend to straggle; these can be trimmed lightly to keep them within bounds but severe pruning is not advisable. Remove any unproductive laterals and large leaves which shade the flowering shoots.
When the plants are well established and just coming into flower, provide a weekly feed of liquid fertilizer diluted and watered into the soil. If you are not growing the all-female hybrids, the plants require pollination as the flowers open. Transfer the pollen from the male flowers of one plant to the female flowers of another. Self-pollination, that is, from male to female on the same plant, tends to produce fruits which are bitter to taste.
The fruits swell rapidly after pollination and are usually ready to harvest within a few days if the plants are growing in a warm, sunny position. They are at their most sweet and tender in the early stages of ripening and lose these qualities if left on the plant too long. Continue to maintain humidity and watering of the soil during the harvesting period. Regular picking encourages fruiting and if you have several plants they may provide a continuous crop through the summer.
The plants can be moved outdoors in late spring when all danger of frost has passed. Attend to moisture and humidity requirements with regular watering and spraying.