With sunlight and regular watering, your family will be adding courgettes to every meal in no time!
Courgettes, also known as Zucchini, are a ‘summer squash’ that originally came from North America. They can reach up to 1 meter in length, and are part of the ‘Cucurbitaceae’ family which also contains familiar vegetables such as squash, pumpkins and gourds.
If you’ve not seen a courgette before, they are green in appearance and sometimes have streaks of yellow. They’re a firm vegetable – while the outside has a thick green skin, the inside of a courgette is lighter, with a very light yellow interior. They can be cut into strips, sliced, diced or even grated to create a delicious addition to your home-cooked meals.
Below, we explore some of the reasons to grow your own courgettes at home, some tips and tricks to grow a healthy crop and some advice on caring for your delicious green veggies.
Why grow your own courgettes?
There are a wonderful range of benefits to growing your own courgettes, from health and activity benefits for all the family to a regular yield of tasty and nutritious treats throughout the summer. Below, we list some of the main benefits:
A tasty and nutritious treat
A delicious and versatile vegetable, courgettes are a great way to add some colour to your recipes. They can be roasted, pickled, grilled and added to pasta dishes, stuffed with cheese or added to a stew for a hearty winter meal.
Courgettes have also been proven to be an effective and low-calorie source of potassium, vitamin C and folic acid, contributing to your all-important 5-a-day and daily recommended intakes. Interestingly, they’ve also been shown to improve blood sugar levels, and to possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making them a great companion to a healthy family diet.
Alongside the physical health benefits of gardening, growing your own courgettes allows you to eat your veggies while they’re at their highest nutritional and vitamin content, without the involvement of nasty pesticides or harsh chemicals. This means that you can rest assured that you know what’s in your food, and that it’s safe.
Physical health benefits
Not only does eating courgettes come with a variety of healthy side-effects, but by growing them yourself at home or on an allotment, you’ll benefit from a range of healthy living perks – Gardening is not for the faint-hearted, a serious gardening session can help you burn up to 400 calories an hour!
Growing your own vegetables has been proven to relieve stress naturally, keep gardeners fit and even helps encourage smaller children to eat their veggies, if they’ve been involved in the growing and picking process. Gardening as a family is a fun way to spend your time, and helps you bond with an end-goal in mind, giving you lots to look forward to and talk about while you watch them grow.
Save money on your weekly shop
Another perk of growing your vegetables at home is the cost savings. Enjoy a reduction to your monthly food shop bill by picking your vegetables as soon as they’re ready from your garden.
With courgettes in particular, it’s important to note that you can regularly pick your smaller yields throughout the growing period, leaving just one or two to keep the crop going. Courgette seeds come at a cost as low as £1.49 for 40 seeds, so your small initial investment will lead to a regular crop of vegetables prime for picking all throughout the summer months!
Reducing your environmental impact
Having cut out the long manufacturing, wrapping and shipping processes, your courgettes will always be at their best when they’ve been grown and picked at home. Beyond the benefits to taste, the transportation of vegetables often uses high volumes of fossil fuels, so by growing your own courgettes from home, you have a direct impact on the reliance of long-distance haulage – imagine the scale of impact if everyone did the same!
It’s important to remember that by home-growing your own vegetables you won’t be using chemicals or pesticides, reducing your impact on the environment and the usage of harmful chemicals.
Tips for growing courgettes at home
Growing your own vegetables sounds daunting but, once you get started, can become a really enjoyable and exciting activity! Watching your seeds grow into full-sized vegetables can be very rewarding, and it can even provide a fun family activity for couples and families, suitable for kids of all ages to get involved with. Below, we look at some tips for growing your courgettes at home.
Where should I grow my courgettes?
Initially, you will want to sow your seeds in an indoor pot or module tray. It’s important that you sow courgette seeds on their sides initially, to help them push through the soil a little easier.
A veg patch is a perfect spot for growing your courgette seeds outside as they enjoy positions in full sun with moist soil. If you don’t have the luxury of a vegetable patch, find a sunny spot in your garden with plenty of space for your courgettes. Remember to acclimatise your veggies first with some shorter periods outdoors (for between ten to fourteen days) before leaving them out in the warm sun permanently.
For optimum growth, use free-draining soils enriched with natural materials such as horse manure and homemade compost – courgettes thrive in moist soil conditions, so regular watering is important.
What’s the best time to grow courgettes?
After sowing indoors, you can plant outside once the last frost has been and gone – late May/early June is usually safe. If you’re unable to grow them inside initially, you can plant the seeds directly into your veg patch or outdoor space in June.
If (in the typical unpredictable fashion of British weather!) the air suddenly turns cool after you’ve planted them outside, cover them with a cloche or a fleece to protect them from the colder overnight temperatures. Doing so can also help prevent one of the most common diseases that courgettes face called ‘Powdery Mildew’ – more on this later in the article.
How long does it take to grow courgettes?
If you’ve started with seeds in April, your courgettes should be ready to pick in late July or early August, ideal for a summer salad! It’s important to check them regularly in that time, to stop them from growing too large. Unfortunately, courgettes left to grow bigger than 10cm or so can lose their delicious flavours and smooth textures, so regular picking is important to preserve crop health and flavour.
Caring for your courgettes
Now you’ve learnt some top tips on getting started with your courgettes, there are a few things to think about when caring for your tasty summer vegetables.
How to take care of them
As mentioned above, it’s important that they’re kept in full sunlight and covered if the weather suddenly turns mild. Courgettes need plenty of space to grow, so space each plant 60-90cm apart for maximum growth.
It’s important that their soil is kept moist at all times, so be sure to regularly water the soil to keep the environment optimal for growth. However, when watering, don’t water the courgettes themselves – instead, water the soil around them to keep their environment moist and nutritious.
When to harvest
Generally speaking, courgettes can be regularly harvested when they are around 10cm long, or 4-5 inches. You only need one or two plants to grow a large family of courgettes, so don’t be afraid to pick the smaller ones more regularly to encourage a long cropping period. They also grow back very quickly, making them the perfect addition to your summer BBQs!
Which pests and diseases should I be aware of?
Slugs and snails
There are a couple of common pests and diseases that might affect your crop of courgettes. The most common enemies of outdoor plants in general are slugs and snails, and particularly so for young courgettes. The best way to deal with this on a vegetable patch is by using slug pellets and/or a physical barrier to deter them, especially in the crucial early growing stages. Once the courgettes are older and stronger, these can be removed and the courgettes will be able to handle slug and snail damage.
One of the most common diseases that affects courgettes (as well as other plants and trees) is the ‘Powdery Mildew’ fungus, which looks exactly as it sounds! It will be obvious if your plants are affected, as the fungal disease appears with white spots or patches on the leaves.
It mainly attacks when there are uneven temperatures and water levels, often caused by cooler nights and warmer days in the summer months. It’s important also to check that your soil is draining freely and that each of your courgettes have enough space to grow, and aren’t overcrowded. Once you’ve removed the affected leaves, add some additional grass clippings or compost to your soil to retain moisture, and keep up-to-date with your regular watering schedule!
Another common garden fungal disease is ‘Furasium Fungus’. It’s particularly attracted to plants and vegetables as it survives indefinitely and spreads by contaminating soil – this means that it can quickly spread between plants in a close proximity, such as those in a vegetable patch.
The Furasium works its way into the roots of young vegetables and plants and blocks the cells which absorb and transport nutrients and water to the plant. Generally, it manifests as wilting initially, followed by a lack of plant growth which may then lead to the plant dying.
Although it sounds scary, it can be prevented with good hygiene practices – rotating plants and sterilising any new plants which are added to the garden or vegetable patch.
What if my courgettes begin to rot?
Courgette rot or ‘Blossom End Rot’ will turn one end of your vegetables a yellow or brown colour. If only a small portion is affected, you can safely cut off the end and enjoy the rest of the vegetable. However, if the entire plant is yellow or brown in colour, there’s no going back.
Blossom end rot tends to happen if the courgettes are low on calcium, which is usually as a result of underwatering. A lack of water also means a lack of calcium, so the plant won’t be able to draw up the calcium through its roots – this is another reason why regular watering is so crucial for a healthy crop. If you’ve been religious with your watering routine, check the pH levels of your soil, and add calcium if there is a major deficiency.
Luckily, it’s not contagious! Simply pick the affected courgettes, and keep a closer eye on your watering schedule and pH levels to prevent it from happening again.
All in all, courgettes are a wonderful addition to an outdoor vegetable patch. Packed with vitamins and health benefits, growing your own vegetables saves money, promotes family bonding and fills your body with nutrients!
When growing your own courgettes at home, don’t forget to:
- Grow them indoors from seedlings
- Water the soil regularly, keeping it moist
- Keep your courgettes in the sun, once they’re outside
- Check for pests and diseases
- Regularly pick them to encourage a long crop
- Pick a maximum of 2 days before adding them to your delicious dinners!
Enjoy your courgettes!