How To Grow Courgettes With A Difference

From tennis balls to curly snakes and in all shades of yellow and green, courgettes can be a really exciting addition to a veg plot

Climbing Courgette Black Forest

by Garden News |

In years gone by courgettes were the unsung beasts of burden of the veg garden, producing a relentless stream of unremarkable, green mini-marrows dished up for Sunday lunch. Not any more. The radical transformation wrought by breeders has produced varieties with a wide range of fruit shapes from tennis balls to curly snakes, and in many tones of green, yellow and cream, some vibrantly striped or duo-toned and perfect for our more adventurous tastes and palettes, and particularly right now when we need quick growing versatile food crops.

Courgettes are so easy to grow and productive, generating a steady supply of tasty, nutty flavoured, succulent fruit from late June if sown in May under glass, variously suitable for stir fries, stuffing, salads and barbeques. All courgettes are at their best when harvested young before they get too large and the skin thickens, which will encourage more fruit to be produced. The flowers are also edible, either raw in salads or dipped in batter and deep fried as an unusual fritter.

Sow seed individually in May under glass in modules or 3in pots. Keep warm and moist and the plants will grow quickly. Pot on into larger pots as they develop and start to harden them off so they can be planted outdoors in June. Plant in the vegetable garden, or in containers or growing bags where they will also do well. You could also squeeze a colourful fruited one into a spare space in the flower border. Courgettes like a rich, moist soil in a sunny, sheltered site when they will perform to their best. Keep watered and feed with liquid feed once a week. This will help keep them fruiting and prevent powdery mildew from taking hold.

Piccolo Courgette
Piccolo Courgette

Once established and growing strongly immature plants often take a few weeks to start producing fruit, generating a steam of male flowers first, before the female flowers atop finger-like immature fruit appear. This can also occur if the weather is cold and wet, conditions courgettes don’t like.

Although bees will pollinate female flowers you can help fruit set by taking a male flower, strip off the petals and dust the pollen on the female stigma. The fruits will then swell and you can harvest them when around 15cm (6in) long for elongated types and tennis ball size for round varieties. Remove any which appear to be withering or rotting at the tip. Although modern varieties are disease resistant, they will all eventually succumb to powdery mildew at the end of summer, but by then they will have given their all and you a crop to be proud of.

Tasty and colourful courgette varieties

Atena Polka

Atena Polka Courgette
Atena Polka Courgette

Prolific fruiting golden skinned variety from Poland. Succulent, well flavoured fruit.

From: www.kingsseeds.com Tel: 0376 570000

Black Forest

Distinctive climbing variety suitable for growing up a fence or trellis. Dark green fruits.

From: www.kingsseeds.com Tel: 0376 570000

Sunstripe

Sunstripe Courgette
Sunstripe Courgette

Vibrant golden yellow striped tasty fruits are produced from spineless bush habit plants.

From: www.groseeds.co.uk

Piccolo

British bred variety with attractive ‘tennis ball’ sized striped sweetly flavoured fruit.

From: www.dobies.co.uk

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