How to Grow Courgettes & Summer Squashes

how to grow courgettes

Courgettes are prolific and easy to grow - one plant is normally enough for a small family and though it's compact enough to fit in a corner of a kitchen garden or vegetable patch you could also grow it in a container on the patio or even on top of the compost heap to save space.

One essential is to keep cutting your crop even (if you end up giving some away!) otherwise, instead of tender tasty courgettes, you'll end up with one or two big fat marrows!

When To Sow 

Sow individually in small pots on a window sill or cool greenhouse in mid to late April and harden young plants off well before planting out.

Plant outside shortly after the last frost from late May to mid June – Courgette plants and their relatives are not hardy so it’s better to wait a few weeks than risk putting them out too early but using a Protective Cloche or Tunnel will help if the forecast is uncertain.

They need rich fertile soil with plenty of organic matter - for very best results you can prepare a pit filled with garden compost during the winter and mound up soil over the top - Plant your Courgettes out on top of this so plants have a rich moist root run.

Space seedlings 60cm  apart in each direction - trailing varieties including summer squashes will need more room so allow 90 centimetres in each direction as well as some support such as and Elegance Bell Cloche or Bean Tower to avoid them taking over the garden!

Care Tips

Water young plants carefully initially but increase the quantity as they grow -  for best results apply liquid tomato feed every week while plants are carrying a crop.

Harvest

Pick courgettes and summer squashes as soon as they are big enough to use - from 7-15cm centimetres long depending on how you prefer them. 

There is no need to wait until the flower has fallen off the end of the fruit - cut individual fruits with a sharp knife slicing carefully through the narrow stalk which attaches it to the plant.  Take care not to slash the plant or damage other developing courgettes with the tip of the knife - it's very easily done! 

Remove any rotting, misshapen or damaged courgettes at the same time and discard them on the bonfire or remove from the garden to avoid risk of disease.

With luck and a good summer you can expect to be picking from the same plants from June to October.

Possible Problems

Newly planted young plants that fail to thrive and eventually die off are often found to have lost most of their roots when they are dug up - that is usually due to poor growing conditions and over watering, but could very occasionally be due to disease, organisms in the manure or garden compost used before planting - to be on the safe side start again with new plants in another spot.

Cucumber Mosaic Virus appears on affected plants as yellow flecks at first, then leaves turn increasingly yellow and plants become stunted and produced fewer new flowers and fruits.

The disease is spread by aphids, but also by knives used for cutting crops and is widespread on a range of garden plants, so it's difficult to avoid other than by choosing resistant varieties where possible. Affected plants are best pulled out and disposed of, but since courgettes are so fast growing it's worth putting in new seeds and starting again, even in July or early August, especially if you can protect late crops with fleece so they continue into Autumn.

Powdery mildew is a small grey white powder like deposit on the foliage which often appears in the autumn as night start turning cool, especially following a dry summer. Plants usually continue cropping lightly and you can try to improve their vigour by liquid feeding, watering generously and removing the worst effective leaves by hand.

If fruits failed to develop hand pollination can help but  its almost always due to weather conditions - the warmer it is the less likely you'll have a problem.