Cucurbits (cucumbers, marrows, courgettes and squash) are fun plants to grow and yield impressive results. Courgettes are an ideal vegetable to grow for a beginner, and you are likely to always have more than you need.
The plants take up a lot of room and require a very fertile soil, so dedicate a large growing space and add plenty of rich, organic matter such as homemade compost or well-rotted manure to see them through the growing season. Many gardeners actually grow their cucurbits directly in manure to get the best results. Always make sure your manure is well-rotted, as fresh manure can burn the plants.
Cucumbers are best grown indoors, in a greenhouse. There are varieties that may be grown outdoors but you will have better results if you grow them under glass.
Sow seeds in February in a heated greenhouse or April in an unheated greenhouse. Sow seeds on their side 13mm in 5cm pots, two seeds per pot. If both seeds germinate, remove the weaker one. Transplant young plants to 25cm pots in late March in a heated greenhouse or late May in an unheated greenhouse.
Keep greenhouse humidity levels high by watering the floor or leaving a full bucket of water in the greenhouse (you can then use the warm water to water the plants, which will be less shocking to them than using cold water).
Support the plants with a vertical wire or cane. Pinch out sideshoots beyond a female flower and remove the tips of flowerless sideshoots. Keep the soil moist by watering regularly, though avoid over-watering. Encourage pollinators, such as bees into your greenhouse by opening the doors and windows on hot days. Harvest the fruits when they are about 15-20cm long, using secateurs or a sharp knife.
Growing Courgettes and Marrows
Marrows and courgettes require similar growing conditions; in fact courgettes are just baby marrows. Sow two seeds on their side per station, 2.5cm deep outdoors in late May or early June, or in pots in a greenhouse from March. If both seeds germinate, remove the weaker one.
Keep the pots moist, then when the plants’ roots begin to show through the bottom of the pot, transplant courgettes into a large container or grow bag. If you are growing them outdoors, transplant them into a well-prepared bed, after all risk of frost has passed. Marrows are best transplanted outside as the plants and fruit can grow very big.
When planting courgettes and marrows outside, it’s a good idea to make planting pockets, roughly 30cm square and deep and filled with compost or well-rotted manure and soil. Space them 60cm apart for bush varieties or 1.2m apart for trailers. Make a low mound at the top of the pockets, then dig a planting hole and place the young plants into them.
Keep the soil moist by watering regularly. It’s a good idea to sink a 15cm pot in the soil next to the plants. By watering into the pot you will ensure the water goes directly to the roots of the plant. This can also be done in grow bags and large containers. Protect the fruits from soil damage by lifting them off the ground, using bricks or even polythene.
Harvest courgettes when they are no larger than 12cm and marrows when they are 25cm. Don’t allow them to grow too big, as their flavour diminishes with size. The flowers are also edible.