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How to grow courgette

Article by: Nadia Hassani  |  Picture by: Ted Rosen
How to grow courgette
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Courgettes come in a variety of colours and shapes. Courgettes have relatively deep root systems that must be kept watered especially in summer heat. This article tells you how to grow, plant, maintain, and, importantly, when and how to pick this fruit that will produce for you all summer long.

Growing courgettes
Courgettes are a summer crop that grows on non-vining bushes. The plants require warm temperatures and prefer a sunny location although they will also grow in light shade. The soil should be well-drained and medium to rich in organic matter.

Courgettes come in numerous varieties with different fruit shapes, sizes and colours. Depending on the variety, they mature in 45 to 55 days.

Courgettes are one of the most bountiful crops in the garden. One plant supplies sufficient fruit for a family of four over most of the summer.

Courgette plants have male and female flowers. Only the female flowers produce fruit. Bees play a crucial role in the pollination necessary for fruit production. Extended periods of rain mean less bee activity causing poor pollination and a reduced harvest. There are also self-pollinating varieties of courgette that do not require bees for pollination (indicated on the seed package).

Courgettes are part of the squash/melon family. Pick a location where no melon, pumpkin, watermelon, winter squash or cucumbers were grown the previous year.


Plants or seeds?
Because courgette is such a prolific producer, it is economic and easier to buy a seedling and plant it in your garden or container. However, if you want to grow a variety not available as a plant at your local nursery, starting courgettes from seed is easy.

Courgette seeds must be planted at a depth twice their diameter. When starting seedlings indoors it is best to use peat pots so you can plant the seedling directly in the garden or container with the pot without disturbing the tender roots. Start the seeds indoors about 4 weeks before the last frost date in your area. If you start the seeds too early, the rapidly growing seedlings will get leggy.

To plant courgette, the soil must be warm. You can speed up warming your soil by covering the earth with black plastic. In warm weather seed courgette directly in the garden, making sure to keep the area moist. For more on growing vegetables from seed and calculating seeding times see here.
Growing courgette in containers
Courgette can be grown in containers at least 30cm in diameter. The larger and heavier the container the better to prevent the container from being knocked over by the weight of the tall plant, which can break the stems. See also container gardening.
Caring for courgettes
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Weeding around courgette plants is minimal because the large leaves shade out most weeds once the plant has matured.

In hot weather without sufficient rain, courgette must be watered regularly and deeply. It is important that the water reaches the roots and not the leaves. When watering with a watering can or a hose gently move the leaves to the side to get to the roots.

If courgette is started in rich, fertile soil, fertilising with a balanced fertiliser (equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) once about a month after the blossoming starts is sufficient for the entire season.
Good and bad companions for courgette
Sweetcorn, melons, pumpkins as well as borage, marigolds, nasturtiums and oregano are good companions for courgette. Do not plant courgette next to potatoes.
Harvesting courgette
The picking size of the courgette depends on the variety. The rule of thumb is the earlier the better when the skin is still tender and the fruit has developed no or few seeds. Elongated courgette should be about 15 to 20cm long, and patty-pan varieties about 7 to 10cm in diameter. If the skin is too hard to be marked by a thumbnail the fruit has stayed on the plant too long.

Even if you won't eat it, remove all ripe fruit because the plant will produce as long as it is being harvested. If you leave even a few courgettes unpicked, the plant may stop producing.
Speedy growers
Check your courgette plants daily when the fruit starts to grow – a tiny courgette can grow large practically overnight.
Male courgette blossoms for cooking
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Male courgette blossoms are edible and delicious. You can easily identify the males from the females: male blossoms are attached to a straight stem, whereas female blossoms are attached to a tiny courgette. Remove them just before they are about to open. The plant will continue to produce new buds as long as you harvest the fruit.
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