Grow at Home: Courgettes & Squashes

Courgettes_pumpkins_pileCourgettes are so easy to grow and you can get as many as three or four a week from each plant during the height of the season.  Squash are also easy and come in all kinds of shapes and sizes from huge pumpkins to tiny cucamelons.  You can even grow your own Loofah (yes its a squash!) if you want to take squash growing to another level!

Which you grow depends on

  • the space you have
  • what you like to eat
  • when you want to grow them  - there are winter squashes and summer squashes
  • What you like the look of - some are so decorative that you might just want them there to add some zing to your colour scheme (and of course you can eat them after too)

 

Where to Grow Courgettes & Squashes

They need quite a bit of space - about a square metre/yard per plant for courgettes and bush squash varieties, so allow enough room in your veg patch.  Trailing squash varieties need even more space - around 5' (1.5m) square.Kabocha

If you don't have this amount of space spare they will be perfectly at home in a large Veg Planter or a Grow Bag Planter. Plant one per container or one or two per Growbag planter.   

Sowing

cucamelons_chelseaOutside

You can sow directly outside from May onwards.  If you do this then sow 2 to 3 seeds 1" (2.5cm) deep and cover with a Cloche or an Easy Poly Tunnel.  Leave the protection in place for at least two weeks and then thin the seedlings to leave the strongest one. The cover will also help keep slugs away too which are partial to a young courgette plant.

Inside

It is easier and more successful to get them going inside though on a windowsill or in the greenhouse.  Sow the seeds on their side  ½ ”(1 cm) deep in small 3” (7.5cm) pots on the windowsill  from April to June,

From May onwards harden off the plants.  Do this by putting them in a cold frame for a week.  If you don't have a cold frame then put them outside during the day and then pull them back inside at night for a week.  Then put them outside in a sheltered spot day and night for a week.  Once hardened plant them out into their final position from May to July when they are as large as you dare let them grow in the small pots.

Courgettes love a good dollop of manure under them so if you have any dig it into the bed along with some good compost or add it to your container before you plant them.

Flowers

Courgettes_flower_with_baby_courgetteWe just have to mention the flowers at this stage.  Courgette and squash plants have male and female flowers on the same plant.  The male flowers appear first and have a single stamen covered in pollen.  They release this pollen and then fall off leading those new to courgette growing to panic and wonder if they will get any courgettes!  Rest assured that the fruit all comes from the female flowers.  The plant then produces female flowers which have a noticeable swelling behind the flower which is the start of the fruit.

Watering & Feeding

Courgettes and squashes are very thirsty plants so need frequent watering.  Try to avoid getting water on the leaves when watering and don't let it sit in a pool of water as this may cause rot.

Once the fruits start to appear - you will see them behind the flowers - feed every 10-14 days with a high potash liquid fertiliser.

Harvesting

Harvest from July to October.  Pick the courgettes anything from 6” 15cm to 12” 30cm, depending on what you want to do with them. Croping them while small will ensure a longer croping period.  The smaller they are the more tender and more delicious. The larger ones are good for perhaps stuffed courgette dishes. The flower is also edible either fried in a light tempura batter or in a salad.

Pests & Diseases

Powdery Mildew: Appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaves which become stunted and shrivel.

Remedy: Keep the soil moist and grow in cooler locations  Easy if you are growing in containers - simply move elsewhere in the garden.

Grey mould: This is a grey, fuzzy fungal growth which can begin as pale or discoloured patches. It is most common in damp or humid conditions. Spores can survive over winter and enter plants via damaged tissue or open flowers.

Remedy: Where you see the black spores remove damaged plant parts before they can become infected. Cut out infected areas into healthy tissue and clear up infected debris and wash your hands before touching healthy plants. If growing in the greenhouses, ventilate well to reduce humidity and give plants lots of space.

No courgettes or fruit rots whilst very small: This is not strictly a 'pest or disease' but more a problem with the growing conditions.  It is usually caused when pollination has not taken place or has been inadequate.  This happens when the start of the summer is cool and there aren't enough insects around to pollinate the plants.

Remedy:  If you notice a lack of insects then you may want to try to hand-pollinate your plants.  Do this by taking off a male flower (see above on how to identify one).  Brush the central parts against the centre of a female flower. If you don't have time to do this don't worry.  This problem should go away on its own when the weather starts to improve.

Leave a Reply