Courgette, or zucchini as it's known across the puddle, makes more than a tasty bread. It's great in soup as well! It's also at the beginner's level in terms of difficulty to grow.
Common name : Courgettes
Scientific name : Cucurbita pepo
Family : Cucurbitaceae
Category : Veggies
Type of plant : Annual
Courgette is grown just about everywhere in Europe, and only needs a bit of sun and water to thrive.
It can be planted from spring through summer, or transplanted as a young seedling purchased commercially in early summer.
Seeding is very simple and can be achieved by even the most inexperienced of gardeners.
Zucchini is part of the Cucurbitaceae family, a term describing a number of cultivars from the Curcurbita pepo species, including the real pumpkin. This plant grows along the ground, and has large leaves. It has yellow flowers, and the fruit it produces is also called zucchini!
Sow my courgettes
You can sow in open soil starting at the end of April, once the risk of frost has passed in your region, until the end of summer. Sow in seed holes (3 seeds in the same hole) 2 to 3 centimeters deep and keeping 100 cm between each seed hole. Water carefully, even spraying the substrate until sprouting.
Careful: zucchini needs to be pollinated in order to bear fruits. It is therefore necessary to have several plants — male and female! - to get a harvest, so seed a number of pockets.
N.B. — in completely naked soil, slugs won't have any other food except for your young plants, so keep them busy elsewhere with food.
For inside seedlings, you can sow under shelter from March, avoiding the direct sun. You will avoid the stress of chasing slugs!
Sow in pans, 3 seeds per pot, on a bed of gravel or clay balls to ease drainage and prevent the roots from rotting. Add special potting soil up to 2/3 of the height of the container and tamp lightly. Then fill to top. Sow at 2-3 centimeters deep. Water gently.
Thin out my courgettes
When the plants reach 8 to 10 cm of height, you can think about thinning out - often after two to three weeks. Remove excess plants or transplant them.
Plant my courgettes
Starting at the beginning of May, if there is no longer a chance of frost, and 4 to 6 weeks after having sowed if you did it under shelter, place in your vegetable garden in loose, cool, and rich soil (you can add fresh compost to the planting hole) in the sun. Careful: zucchini needs to be pollinated in order to bear fruits. It is therefore necessary to have several plants — male and female! - to encourage the crop.
Leave a space of about 2 square meters for a each plant. Water generously after planting and the following two weeks.
Mulch right after planting to stop gaps from forming between your plants.
Mulch my courgettes
Mulch between the plants one to two weeks after the final planting, using a natural mulch which holds in moisture. This will limit evaporation from the soil, and thus the need to water and to weed.
Water my courgettes
Pro-tip : if the leaves of your zucchini plant lean down under the sun - it needs water !
Two or three times a week, thoroughly water at the base, without wetting the foliage. You may water less if you've mulched, and more in case of serious dryness.
Weed my courgettes
Weed regularly while your zucchini is growing, removing and replacing the mulch from time to time, which helps your zucchini avoid certain diseases. Focus on removing tall weeds, as well as bindweed, which can grow through the leaves. Don't worry about the little weeds, they will be quickly crowded out.
Reap my courgettes
Zucchinis grow very quickly!
The harvest takes place about 2 months after seeding — keep an eye on vegetable growth too, since they lose quality if they get too big.
Choose zucchinis that are still maturing, as seeds start appearing in those that are already ripe. This makes them less enjoyable to eat.
It's also preferable to pick them before they grow longer than 20 cm, or thicker than 10 cm of diameter.
If they get larger than this, they'll lose flavour.
Prune my courgettes
If you keep noticing that the first vegetables die at the beginning of the season, it's because your zucchini isn't yet developed enough to produce. You can therefore cut these first vegetables off as a preventative measure, to encourage your plant to develop a good root system first and foremost.
Remove my courgettes
Once the last fruit is harvested, don't forget to pull out the plants to make room for autumn planting! Correctly remove the roots and avoid composting the remains if the foliage shows signs of disease.
Dibble my courgettes
Plant as soon as the beginning of May if there is no more risk of frost, and 4 to 6 weeks after sowing if you did it under shelter. Set up in your kitchen garden in a sunny place.
Respect a minimum space of 4 m² per plant. Water copiously after planting, and during the next two weeks.
Mulch after planting.
Check on my courgettes
Watch for slugs which can devour the young plant in just one night. These pests can easily be diverted from your precious vegetables by an offering of beer or flour placed away from your crops (get the cheapest, they aren't very difficult to satisfy).
Zucchini relies on the wind and bees to pollinate between the male and female flowers. Thus, if the weather is humid, and bees are rare, give them a little help. Use a brush and play matchmaker by rubbing the male flowers (that carry pollen), then transfering the pollen to the female ones.
Zucchini sensitive to powdery mildew (which develops due to excessive moisture on the leaves): this thin white film covers the leaves, like a powder.
It's a fungi which sucks up the sap to the extent of exhausting the plant, which will end up weakening itself, and in certain cases, dying.
An adequate and timely treatment is essential to stop powdery mildew, which can contaminate other Cucurbitaceae plants in your garden including squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, and melons.
Cut off and destroy the diseased leaves as soon as powdery mildew appears — never compost them! Use pruners disinfected with 90° rubbing alcohol in advance and wipe them after each coop.
Then, spray on a solution of 5 g baking soda per liter of water with a teaspoon of soap.