How to grow courgettes from seed March 06 2016

Courgette pattern

Courgettes, also known as zucchini, are easy to grow and highly productive. Suitable for planting in pots or grow bags, pollinating insects love the bright-yellow flowers.

Sowing seeds

Courgettes need plenty of sunshine, well-drained soil and space to grow. Each plant will produce lots of fruits. Start them off in small pots or sow directly into the ground.

Sow in small pots (April to May)
Fill 10 cm wide pots with compost. Make a 2cm deep indent in the compost with a pencil and put in a seed laid on its side. Sprinkle over some more compost and firmly pat down. Water and place the pots somewhere light, warm and sheltered, keeping the compost moist.

Once the seedlings have produced two or three leaves, harden them off by keeping the pots outside during the daytime and inside at night for a few days.

Directly into the ground (May to June)
You can sow seeds straight into raked, weed-free soil once there’s little chance of frost. Sow two seeds on their sides 2 cm deep. Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, remove the weaker one. Allow at least 90 cm gaps between plants.

Planting out

Plant out pot-grown seedlings when they have three or four leaves, around a month after sowing. Transfer them to large pots or grow bags, or plant into prepared ground.

Plant in large pots or grow bags

Make sure pots are at least 45 cm wide. Fill with compost and dig a hole with a trowel. Carefully transfer the plant from the smaller pot. Add more compost around the roots and firm the plant in. Water generously. You’ll only need one plant per pot or two per grow bag.

Plant in the ground

Dig a square hole the depth of a spade and fill with well-rotted manure or garden compost. Top up with the soil removed from the hole to make a mound. Plant the seedling in the mound and water well.

Water regularly around the roots but not over the leaves.

Apply a comfrey feed or liquid fertiliser every couple of weeks.

Hoe weeds until the plants are fully established.

Harvesting

Pick courgettes while they are still small or else they will grow into large marrows. Twist off from the plant stem. The edible flowers can be picked once fruits have formed.

Eating

RAW    Slice into chunks or peel into ribbons and add to salads.

COOK    Boil or steam for a few minutes or lightly fry in a little oil until tender.

MARROWS    Peel and core
before baking or braising. Marrows are good for making jams and chutney.

FLOWERS    Use on the day they are picked. Stuff with ricotta and herbs then fry in a flour batter.

Storing

Courgettes will keep in the fridge for at least a week. Wash well and trim both
ends before use.

FREEZE    Slice, blanch for two minutes, drain and dry. Freeze in plastic bags.