Growing Courgettes from Sowing to Harvest

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Harvesting courgettes

Courgettes are renowned for being outrageously prolific – just two or three plants are likely to keep a small family supplied with these versatile fruits all summer long. If you haven’t started them off already, don’t panic! There’s still plenty of time. Read on or watch our video to discover how to grow courgettes from sowing to glorious, magnificent harvest!

Types of Courgette

Courgettes are warm-season crops with compact, bushy or trailing varieties to pick from. Compact types are good for containers – indeed anywhere you don’t have a lot of space – while trailing types may be trained as climbers to grow up supports such as trellis or wire mesh.

Green courgettes are always going to be popular, but try a few of their more charismatic cousins as well, including varieties with yellow fruits, striped or ribbed fruits, and even round fruits.

“Courgette
Grow courgettes somewhere they can bask in sunshine, and give them plenty of space

Where to Grow Courgettes

Courgettes are members of the squash family, so they need to be bathed in warmth and sunshine to thrive. Shelter them from strong winds too, so bees and other insects can go about pollinating the flowers in peace.

Their robust growth and big leaves make them hungry feeders. Add plenty of garden compost or well-rotted manure to the soil before planting. In fact, you can even plant courgettes on top of a compost heap – if you won’t be needing it till autumn that is. Or prepare planting pockets: a few weeks before planting dig out a hole, fill it with compost, then return some of the soil, along with a handful of organic fertiliser. The nutrient-rich filling will prove a veritable feast for the plants growing in it!

“Sowing
Sow courgettes seeds on their sides to minimise the risk of rotting

How to Sow Courgettes

You can sow courgettes directly outside after your last frost date. Make a depression into the soil about half an inch (1cm) deep then drop in two seeds. Cover them back over and pop a clear jar or half a plastic bottle over the top to serve as a miniature greenhouse to speed things along. Once the seedlings are up, remove the weakest to leave just one in each position. Direct sowing like this works just fine, but I prefer to get a bit of a head start by sowing under cover, in the greenhouse, a couple of weeks earlier.

Fill pots or plug trays with potting mix and sow one seed per pot or plug on its edge. They will germinate quickest with a little warmth, but so long as you can guarantee a frost-free environment they’ll eventually push through.

You can also sow into seed flats or trays to separate out and pot on after germination. Do this as soon after germination as you’re able to handle them, before the roots become entangled. Fill your pots and, holding the seedling by its leaves, not the stem, feed in the potting mix around the sides. Firm in and water.

But when should you sow? Our Garden Planner can help. It pulls data from your nearest weather station, which means it automatically works out your last frost date. By sowing under cover – in a greenhouse or tunnel for example – you can start even sooner if you don’t mind potting young plants on a few times before it’s time to plant them outside.

“Courgettes
Use a mulch to help retain soil moisture

How to Plant Courgettes

Prepare plants for life outdoors by gradually acclimatising them for one to two weeks beforehand. To begin with set them out in a sheltered spot during the day for a short while, then gradually increase the length of time they’re out for. Plant once there’s no risk of frost.

Plant courgettes at least two feet (60cm) apart. In our Garden Planner the minimum space required by each plant is indicated by the shaded area around it, so you can get your spacings spot on. Bear in mind that many varieties need more space than this, so check the exact requirements of what you’re growing.

Planting couldn’t be simpler. Dig a suitable-sized hole into prepared soil. Remove the young plant from its pot. Pop it into the hole and feed the soil back in around it. Finish with a thorough watering.

Incidentally, a great tip is to insert a pot into the soil right next each plant. By watering into the pot the water stays put and passes out through the drainage holes into the soil near the roots, rather than just running off over the surface. I also find that adding a rough mulch of organic matter helps to catch and hold onto the water, as well as making the soil less prone to forming a hard crust that water can’t penetrate.

“Cooked
Your can eat male courgette flowers, but leave some to pollinate the female flowers

Caring for Courgettes

Keep your courgettes well-watered, and top up mulches occasionally to help lock in soil moisture for longer. Plants tend to produce only male flowers at first, and pollination can also be slow to start with anyhow, particularly in cool or damp weather. If pollinating insects are thin on the ground – or rather the air – you can hand pollinate flowers by transferring the pollen from a male flower direct to an open female flower.

In fact, the flowers make good eating too, typically stuffed or simply battered then fried. But only pick the male flowers – that’s the ones without a bulge behind them – or else you won’t get any fruits!

Powdery mildew can be an issue on the leaves later on in the season. Keeping plants well-watered and leaving plenty of space between them for good airflow should slow the spread of this disease. If your courgettes does get powdery mildew, don’t worry too much, as plants will usually cope.

“Large
Leave courgettes to grow to this size at your peril!

How to Harvest Courgettes

Begin cutting or twisting off courgettes while the fruits are still quite small. Smaller fruits have a denser, nuttier flesh and, believe me, are far superior in taste. If you’ve been put off courgettes before, it’s probably because they were left to grow into big watery marrows! Check plants often – every other day at least – and pick fruits as soon as they reach a useable size. This is the best way to avoid those overbearing gluts!

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Comments

 
"Hello Benedict, I really enjoyed reading your article about growing zucchini, I found it very helpful. Thank you, Richard"
Richard on Thursday 14 May 2020
"Hi Richard, that's very kind of you to say, thank you. So pleased you found the article useful."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 14 May 2020
"You didn’t mention the main reason I can’t successfully grow zucchini- squash bugs. Is it possible to avoid them without using toxic chemicals?"
Lou Marchbank on Tuesday 19 May 2020
"Absolutely. Head up to the Pests tab above for our pest guide to squash bugs. I have also see people wrap their handy in sticky tape and then go over plants, dabbing the leaves with the tape to pick up the bugs. It takes a little patience but if very effective."
Ben Vanheems on Wednesday 20 May 2020
"I really enjoyed your video.Thanks for helping all of us."
Tom on Wednesday 20 May 2020
"You're very welcome Tom."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 21 May 2020
"That helped me lot.....Thanks......."
Rick on Wednesday 27 May 2020
"Very useful first grower will put in outside raised bed. Great it's a UK person explaining"
M Millership on Thursday 4 June 2020
"This is my first year with raised garden. 16 feet x 4 feet by 3 feet high. Peas at one end, just setting flowers. My son has had more experience than I . We also have summer squash which he is trying to train to trail over the edge. Then comes 3plants of broccoli and 3cauliflower then radishes and carrots and at other end beets and egg plant. I noticed that there are some leaves with perfectly holes. My grand children started corn from seed...the 5plants are put in front of flower garden. We don’t expect much from them. A friend told me to make a spray using ground red pepper and spray on tops and bottoms of leaves to keep pests off, any ideas. I live in northern Illinois where we have had soooo much rain but it drains well from garden. I so enjoyed your videos! Thank you for your enthusiasm."
Nancy crandall on Thursday 11 June 2020
"Hi Nancy. That sounds like a lovely and very promising raised bed. I know chili peppers, ground up and spread about, do put off a lot of pests and certainly bigger animals. I've never tried it myself though so can't vouch for its efficacy. Jealous of your rain - it has been unusually dry here in the UK but rain is promised at last."
Ben Vanheems on Thursday 11 June 2020
"Hi, and thank you for the excellent help. I have a strange issue with my Courgettes. As soon as the flower heads drop off, the fruit(?) goes pale at the end and starts to rot, almost straight away. I haven't found any bugs and have started to keep them off the ground by laying them on straw but they continue to rot. It's my first attempt, and they are still edible once the ends are removed. Any ideas? I am on the Isle of Wight by the way."
David Melville on Friday 3 July 2020
"Same issue as Dave. Zucchini gets to a few inches and starts to wither and yellow."
Sue on Saturday 4 July 2020
"Hi David and Sue. Yes, this is a common problem, particularly early on in the summer. It's typically down to poor pollination, which causes the ends to rot like this. You can cut off the rotten end and still eat the remainder. As summer progresses, pollination should pick up and this should be less of an issue, so hang on in there!"
Ben Vanheems on Monday 6 July 2020

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