Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Courgette Growing GIY Ireland

Weekly Column Courgette #19 2016

Weekly Column Courgette #19 2016
Published: May 10, 2016    By: Shona Dubois
They are easy to grow and incredibly prolific, growing freakishly fast in the summer.  Two or three plants will be more than enough for any family. Your only problem in fact will be working out what to do with all those courgettes (up to 40 from one healthy plant). Courgette bread anyone? 
Sowing
Sow seeds indoors in pots at a depth of 2cm from April.  They will need temperatures of 20 degrees celsius to germinate so leave the pots on a sunny windowsill.  Harden off well and transplant in June.  Don’t be fooled by their size when you are first planting the seedlings out.  Courgettes grow to large, hungry and thirsty plants so leave 50-75cm between plants. Dig plenty of well rotted compost in to the soil before transplanting. 
Growing
Never let the soil dry out – use a mulch around the plants to preserve moisture.  They will need lots of water particularly when the courgettes are starting to swell.  If you have added plenty of manure when planting, they shouldn’t need feeding, but if you think the growth is slow use a general purpose organic fertiliser, or make your own comfrey tea. Courgette plants have male and female flowers on the same plant and insects will generally carry pollen from one to the other at which point the female flower starts to become a fruit.  If the plants are grown under cover, you may have to pollinate them by hand. 
Harvesting
Harvest regularly when the courgettes are about pencil length.  They are at their best at this stage, and quickly become watery and relatively tasteless thereafter.  The more you pick the more fruit the plant will produce.  Don’t leave big marrows on the plant as it will reduce the production of new fruits.  Keep picking, even if you are not in the mood for eating them – store them somewhere cool and dark and they should keep for a week or two while you consider what to do with them!
Recommended Varieties
Atena Polka, Defender, Floridor
Problems
Powdery mildew is the most common problem and appears as a white powder on leaves at the end of the summer.  It is not a huge issue and mainly just affects the leaves.  Slugs are an issue for newly planted seedlings – protect them carefully! 
GIY Tips
1. Try sowing courgette seeds in biodegradable pots – they can then be sowed out (pot and all) in to the soil.
2. Allow at least some of your courgettes to grow in to giant marrows at the end of the season – then pick and store them.  The thick skin will preserve them over the winter.

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