Growing Guide - Courgette

Are you looking for an easy-to-grow vegetable that thrives in UK weather conditions and tastes great in a variety of delicious recipes? Well then, make the courgette your next growing project.

This vegetable's origins lie in South and Central America, but thanks to explorer Christopher Columbus, it was the Italians who popularised the courgette in Europe. They named it the zucchino which eventually led to it being known as the zucchini in the US. We Brits, however, prefer the French word for the vegetable which is, of course, courgette.

Once harvested, the tasty courgette can accompany many of your favourite meals – and the health benefits of eating it are impressive too. These include good levels of potassium and vitamins A, C and B-6. Plus, it's low in calories and the skin provides an excellent source of soluble fibre.

If you're unfamiliar with growing courgettes, here's a quick-fire Q&A to help you understand them a little more:

How do courgettes grow?
Begin growing your courgettes in pots before planting them outdoors or in a polytunnel once they've matured. They will remain there until they're ready to harvest.

How long do courgettes take to grow?
Your courgettes will usually be ready around eight weeks after you first plant the seedlings.

How many courgettes per plant?
Courgette plants can be very productive. This can yield around four courgettes per plant every week if growing conditions are favourable!

How big do courgettes grow?
The best-tasting courgettes are harvested young when they're around 10-12.5cm long.

Ready to start growing your courgettes now? Our comprehensive guide will increase your chances of a successful harvest each year. Read on to find out more.

When to grow courgettes

Typically courgettes should be sown between April and June ready for a harvest time of late June and even into October. In warmer areas or heated polytunnels, you can try sowing courgette seeds at the end of February, but March is the best time to make the first sowing under a polytunnel cover. Those living in colder areas should sow inside in April and then plant them out in late June. Courgette seeds can also be sown directly outdoors too in late May to early June once the risk of frost has passed. We recommend starting the growing period indoors, however, to increase the chances of a successful harvest.

How to grow courgettes

Sowing indoors
Sowing indoors in pots is recommended for those living in either colder regions or looking for earlier crops. This will allow them to grow without the threat of frost killing the plant.

Begin by filling pots with peat-free, multipurpose compost. We recommend leaving your compost in a polytunnel or a greenhouse before growing courgettes, if possible, as this will ensure it's warm enough for the seeds to thrive. Firm the compost in the pot, then press one or two seeds sideways into the compost.

Next, cover the seeds with more compost or warm vermiculite to protect the young courgette seedlings during colder nights. Finally, soak with water and place in a propagator or a clear-lidded tray. For the best growth, ideally, keep the plant at 20°C. 

Once seedlings begin to appear, place the larger and stronger ones into bigger pots and dispose of the weak ones. Continue to grow them indoors until the end-of-spring frosts have passed.

Sowing outdoors
Growing courgettes from seeds can be done outside once the risk of frost has passed. This will most likely be from late May to early June. (Oh, and always be aware of the ever-present danger of slugs and snails – they love courgettes as much as Christopher Columbus did!) To plant outside, dig holes 90cm apart in your compost and sow 1-2 seeds, 2.5cm deep.

Next, cover the seeded area with transparent glass or a plastic cloche. You should leave these on for a few weeks after the courgette seedlings appear. Finally, remove all weak seedlings, so that just one strong one is left in each hole.

Growing Guide CourgetteHow to plant courgettes

Now that the seedlings are grown, it's time for planting out your courgettes. This will be their final growing position, so find the perfect spot. Courgette plants flourish in sunny spots that also offer shelter. If your outdoor space doesn't have this then you may benefit from investing in a polytunnel.

Begin planting your courgettes by preparing your growing spot. Dig holes in your compost 90cm apart and place your courgette plants in the holes. Next, mulch around the courgette plants with more compost or manure to keep the area moist.

Growing courgettes in containers or growing bags is also possible too. Follow the same steps as before but ensure that the containers or growing bags are at least 45cm wide. Plant up to two courgette plants per growing bag or just one in a container and you'll be all set.

How to look after courgette plants

This plant will need care and attention whilst it grows to ensure it's as tasty as can be when harvested. Fortunately, everything you need to do is straightforward. Watering is the most important task with moisture being vital to their growth. You'll want a just-moist soil which means regular watering is required, especially if we have a heatwave!

Feeding courgettes correctly is also important. These plants prosper when you apply a high potash feed once every two weeks to encourage growth and flowering.

Protecting your courgette whilst it grows

As well as performing the maintenance tasks, you'll also have to look for pests or diseases in your plants. The following must be nipped in the bud to ensure your courgette doesn't rot away.

Slugs and snails
As mentioned, slugs and snails are a major threat to your courgette plant when it's young which may destroy it. To keep them away, place crushed eggshells or a copper ring around the stem base.

Rotting fruits
Courgettes can rot when they get damp which puts them at risk with the everchanging British weather. This is why shelter is so important. This issue can also be caused by improper watering too, however.

Ensure you water directly into the soil and never overwater.

If any of the flowers do become soggy then they should be quickly removed.

This is a fungus infection which is primarily caused by a lack of moisture, particularly in hot summers. Help prevent this by mulching the area around the base of the plant to lock in moisture.

Should any mildew appear then it should be pruned out to prevent it from spreading.

How to harvest courgettes

A courgette's harvest time is between May and October depending on how early or late you planted. You'll know your courgette is ready to harvest when it's around 10-12.5cm long. This is when they're at their tastiest and harvesting will help to encourage the growth of further courgettes too!

To harvest, simply take your sharp knife and cut them off at the base or twist the stalk sharply to snap it off. You should then take them inside and give them a thorough clean ready to be used immediately. They can also be stored for later use by placing them in a fridge but should be consumed within three days to ensure they don't lose their taste and turn bitter.

Start growing courgettes today in a brand-new polytunnel

If courgettes seem like the perfect growing project for you then ensure a successful harvest by using a polytunnel. We stock a range of sizes and each provides the courgette plants with the sunlight, space and shelter they desire.

Got a question about growing courgettes in one of our polytunnels? Our team can help. Call us on 01282 811250 or email and we'll do our best to support you.

Be sure to check out our other blogs for more growing guides to inspire your garden this year.
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