Courgettes, also known as zucchinis in North America, are robust and fruitful plants. If given the right conditions, you do not only get a wealth of fruits, but you can also grow them on a bit to get a couple of marrows per container plant. Best of all, however, you get to harvest the flowers, which can be stuffed with cheese, dipped in batter and deep-fried to deliciousness.
Here is a guide on what you are going to need if you want to grow them in containers, on balconies, roof terraces or patios.
When to sow –
Seeds can be sown between March and April, and they will take between 7 days and 20 days to germinate. Check the individual seed packets for more specific information, as this is just a ballpark figure.
What the soil needs –
Courgettes like rich soil. If you have access to compost or well-rotted manure, mix that in at a ratio of 2:1 soil to compost/manure.
What type of sun –
The plants like full sun, but be wary of them drying out too much. To prevent the evaporation from the soil, make sure you add a layer of mulch or bark chippings to the top of the pot. This will help prevent surface evaporation and keep the plants happy between watering.
What size pots –
Start the seeds off in 10cm pots, and transplant out into 25cm pots once they look like they’ve outgrown the first pots. I then keep some of the plants in 25cm pots, but a couple will get transferred into 40cm buckets (I just don’t have enough of them for all of the plants). However, both seem to do well at these two sizes.
Slugs love courgettes. And the best way to manage the problem is to put a ring of crushed eggshells around the base of the plant. That way it will stop the slugs being about to get near enough to wreak their havoc.
Once the courgettes start forming, I feed the plants with liquid tomato feed once a week, and that seems to keep them very happy.
You’ll get lots of growth off each plant, and removing the courgettes should help to spur the plant on to grow more. I like to remove them at different stages. The first courgettes of the season I’ll take off when they are about 10cm long, then the next ones to flourish will come off around when they are around 25cm, and at the end of the season, I’ll leave a few to grow as big as they can and transform into giant marrows.
Be sure to always remove them at the stalk with a sharp knife, as twisting or tearing them off will damage the plant.
Anything else –
Courgettes would normally grow along the ground with new growth forming all along these shoots. Obviously, that isn’t an option on a balcony or roof terrace where space is at a premium. To solve that, however, you can happily train the courgettes up a trellis or canes, which will not only help them thrive in a tight space, but also help prevent rot at the base of the plant.
In addition, make sure you pinch out the tips of the plant when it gets to the ends of the cane or trellis, in order to prevent further growth.
Finally, explore the different varieties of courgettes that are available – it’s not just tasteless and watery green supermarket specials. You can get courgettes in a range of colours, sizes, and shapes, and that is the best thing about growing your own… weird and wonderful varieties! My favourite are these Thompson and Morgan two-tone numbers, but check out heritage ranges and let me know if you find any interesting ones.