I’m not sure exactly when courgettes started to become popular veg but for many years now they have been a supermarket constant. What you don’t tend see on the supermarket shelves, however, is much variation. If you look through the seed catalogs, you will see that the world of the courgette is quite varied: some green, some yellow, some striped, some round - spreaders and climbers. What’s more, they are easy to grow and easy to maintain. You just need to be careful with how many plants you actually grow as courgette plants are notoriously productive.
PREPARE THE SOIL
For the best results with courgettes, make sure you have prepared the soil really well with lots of organic matter (well-rotted manure and/or home-made compost) – best applied in autumn, though spring is fine too if you haven’t got round to it. What you don’t want is soil that dries out too quickly as courgettes need plenty of water and fertile soil. They like lots of fun too, so avoid growing in the shade if possible.
Courgette seeds can be sown directly in the soil from late May to early June, 2.5cm (1in) deep. The seedlings will need protecting from slugs in particular, and cover with a cloche if you have one for a week or two to protect from inclement weather as they settle in. Plant two or three seeds 90cm (3ft) apart and take out two of these when large enough to handle, leaving the most robust one in position.
Personally, like many other growers no doubt, I prefer to start seeds off mid-April in modular cell trays (or 7.5cm /3in pots) filled with multipurpose compost. In this case, sow to a depth of about 1.5cm (½in). The conventional wisdom is to sow them on their side (i.e. not flat) so that water doesn’t settle on top of them and cause them to rot before they germinate. They will need a temperature of 18-21C (65-70F) to germinate, so use a heated propagator if you have one or place trays or pots on a warm windowsill.
Plants started off inside can be planted out in late May to early June when the risk of frost has passed. However, it’s best if you give your young plants a little time to acclimatize to outdoor conditions (‘hardening off’) by placing them outside in the day and bringing them in at night for about a week. Add a little general fertilizer to the soil if possible at the same time as planting.
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