Suitable site and soil for Growing Marrows and Courgettes

Marrows were formerly grown on rubbish heaps, before scientific composting became widely practiced. As they took up a lot of space, and needed plenty of humus, this seemed a neat solution. Nowadays, however, marrows are normally grown in open ground. Marrows can be grown on compost heaps as well, but you may need to water them frequently, if the compost dries out on the surface in hot weather. Whatever the site, it should be sunny and open, with a rich, well-drained growing medium.

If you are growing trailing varieties, remember that they can quickly smother neighbouring low-growing vegetables. Keep them well away from carrots and lettuce; a good rule of thumb is to leave a minimum of 1.5 m (5’) of clear growing space for the plant to spread out comfortably. Alternatively, trailing varieties with moderate-sized fruit can be grown near walls, fences or tripods and allowed to climb up them; marrows are climbing plants by nature.

Prepare the stations for the plants just before sowing. Space the stations for bush varieties 90 cm (3’) apart, and trailers 1.5 m (5’) apart. For each plant, dig a hole one spit deep and 45 cm x 45 cm (1’6” x 1’6”); keep the top soil separate. Put in a bucket of well-rotted manure, garden compost, or grass cuttings. Return most of the dug out soil, and ridge up the topsoil around the hole, so a slight depression is formed in the centre. When this is filled with water, it will percolate down to the spongy material beneath, where the roots will absorb it after planting.

Sowing and planting out

The time of sowing depends on where the marrows are going to grow and whether or not they are going to be given glass protection. Those grown entirely in a heated greenhouse can be sown in situ in late winter, or in early spring for transplanting to a cloche or cold frame. Outdoor sowing must be delayed until late spring, because in cool temperate climates the marrow is only half hardy and will not survive heavy frost.

For the earliest sowings, under glass, sow seeds singly 1.2 cm (1/3”) deep, in peat pots filled with standard seed compost. Sow the seeds on edge, not flat. A minimum temperature of 10°C (50°F) is needed for germination, which can be supplied in the greenhouse, glazed porch, or cold frame. Germination should take place 10-14 days from sowing, but with temperatures of about 16°C (60°F), especially at night, expect sprouting in about four to six days. The young plants will then grow very quickly and need putting into larger containers almost at once. Hardening off will slow down their growth but, done carefully, will not harm them, and they can be planted outdoors with protection towards the end of mid-spring. The plants at this stage should never suffer a check from drought or over watering; avoid splashing water on the stems.

For direct outdoor sowing, sow two seeds to a station, 1.2 cm (1/3”) deep. Until the seeds have germinated, protect them from any threat of frost by inverting large flowerpots over them. Once the seedlings appear, replace the flowerpots with large glass preserving jars, or cloches, so sunlight can reach the plants. For bush type marrows, remove the weaker seedlings by cutting the stem at soil level, so as not to disturb the root of the seedling retained. For trailing varieties, if you have room you can keep two plants at each station, and train them in opposite directions.

Many gardeners buy young plants; look for springy stems and upright plants of good colour. Avoid those which are flowering, or have thin, hard or kinky stems.

Care and development

Marrows are fast growing plants, right from germination, and make great demands on moisture. The soil must never be allowed to dry out, particularly in hot weather. A moist mulch 1.2 cm (¥) deep, of grass cuttings or compost, applied after watering, helps conserve soil moisture and also keeps weeds down. If any adventitious roots appear on the surface of the soil, gently cover these with 2.5 cm (1”) of fine soil mixed with compost. Other care consists of giving a feed of liquid manure when watering from time to time, hoeing to prevent encroaching weeds from taking over, and syringing the leaves in hot weather to keep red spider mite away.

Slugs are particularly fond of young marrow plants, so it is a good idea to scatter slug baits around the plants.

Some people feed and water their marrows by sinking empty flower pots in the soil alongside the plants, and then pour all water and liquid nutrients directly into the pot. Although the plant roots receive a slightly higher percentage of the food and water applied, it is not really necessary unless you are trying for enormously heavy and large fruit.

09. September 2013 by admin
Categories: Fruit Gardening, Uncategorized, Vegetable Gardening | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Suitable site and soil for Growing Marrows and Courgettes

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