How to grow courgettes

There are several types of courgette, plants can be compact and bushy, trailing or climbing, and fruits can be green, striped or yellow. Fresh, young, seedless fruits have a firm texture and good flavour compared to watery and seedy marrows. Courgette flowers are a delicacy too, and can be stuffed or fried or given the tempura batter treatment. Yellow courgette varieties are proving popular among chefs and foodies as they hold less water, making them more suitable to a wide range of uses in the kitchen.

When to grow courgettes

Courgette plants are frost tender. As such, they should be treated as a seasonal summer crop. Sowing should be timed so plants are ready to go outside after the last frost of spring. Sow too late and you risk not getting a crop before the first frosts of autumn. In the ground or in pots, make sure to choose an open sunny position for the best results.

Top 10 courgette varieties

  • Courgette ‘Defender’ F1 Hybrid
  • Courgette ‘All Green Bush’
  • Courgette ‘Black Forest’ F1 Hybrid
  • Courgette ‘British Summertime’ F1 Hybrid
  • Courgette ‘Venus’ F1 Hybrid
  • Courgette ‘Soleil’ F1 Hybrid
  • Courgette ‘Partenon’ F1 Hybrid
  • Courgette ‘Midnight’ F1 Hybrid
  • Courgette ‘Eclipse’ F1 Hybrid
  • Courgette ‘Shooting Star’ F1 Hybrid

How to sow courgettes

Indoors:

Courgettes seeds are relatively large and flat making them easy to work with. For the earliest crops, seeds should be sown in April under glass, but most growers tend to sow in the greenhouse or on windowsill in May. Sow courgette seeds 1cm (1/2″) deep in 7.5cm (3″) pots filled with a free draining seed- or multipurpose compost.

Set the seeds on their edge – if laid flat, water can sit on top of the seed and cause it to rot off before germinating. Place pots in a propagator or seal your pots inside a clear polythene bag and keep at 20-25C (68-77F) until after germination, which usually takes 7-10 days. Do not exclude light as this helps germination. As soon as growth is seen, remove propagator lids and bag covers.

Top Tip: Yoghurt pots with pierced drainage holes in the bottom make excellent sowing pots for courgettes.

Outside:

For later crops, or when indoor sowing is not possible, direct sow seeds during the first half of June, in prepared soil where the plants are to grow. Germination outside can me more erratic so it is best to set three seeds per station and thin to the strongest seedling once they are underway.

If you miss the opportunity to sow seed, use courgette plug plants as an alternative. We offer courgette seeds year-round and we offer courgette plants for sale in season.

Where to sow courgettes

Courgette plants can be grown in traditional rows on the veg patch, spacing 90cm (36″) apart, or dotted around the patch to fill gaps. They perform best in free draining soils. Add plenty of organic matter, such as well rotted manure or homemade compost, when preparing the planting site.

How to grow courgettes in containers

Courgettes grow very well in containers. Choose pots of around 10litres in size (a builder’s bucket with holes drilled in the bottom would be ideal). Fill pots with a quality multipurpose compost, high in organic matter. For the best results when growing courgettes in pots, plant in incredicompost®, mixing in incredicrop® prior to planting up.

Caring for your courgettes

Plant out early sown plants under cloches or frames in late spring, or wait until after the last hard frost and plant without protection. Acclimatise plants to outside conditions for 10 to 14 days before planting out (setting outside by day and bringing back under cover each evening). Keep plants well watered to prevent soils or container compost from drying out. Use a one off long-season fertiliser such as incredicrop® at planting time, or apply a weekly liquid tomato feed to plants once they start to flower. Courgette flowers are insect pollinated. In a cold season when there might be a lack of natural pollinators, or if fruits are just failing to develop, setting can be improved with hand pollination. Pick a male flower (one with no immature fruit behind the flower), pull away the petals and insert the stamen into each female flower to transfer the pollen. Train trailing and climbing courgettes up frames as a great space saver.

When to harvest courgettes

Plants sown early in April could be ready to harvest from as early as June depending on weather and growing conditions, but late July and August provide the best picking opportunities. Aim to harvest several times a week through the season to prevent developing fruits from growing too large. Courgette fruits are at their best when they are around 10cm (4″). Left to grow longer they will lose texture and flavour, and fruiting potential will be greatly reduced. Wear long sleeves when harvesting courgettes as some varieties have spiky hairs on their stems which can cause irritation while working with the plants. Use a sharp clean blade to cut the fruits from the plants.

Common problems

Powdery Mildew: A common problem that hits the majority of courgette plants before the end of the season, seen as a white powdery coating on foliage. It is caused by dry soil and humidity around the plants. Keep courgette plants well spaced to increase airflow around them. courgette powdery mildewKeep evenly watered to prevent dry soils, and avoid wetting foliage. Add a mulch layer on soil around plants to retain moisture.

Slugs and snails: These can be a problem on young plants. Use copper bands/ tape or your choice of slug pellet to keep them under control. As plants mature, slugs and snails become less of a problem, but they can attack fruits.

Cucumber mosaic virus: Growth looks stunted and/or deformed with leaves taking on a yellow mosaic patterning. Flowering is greatly reduced, and fruit already growing will remain small and turn dark green with yellow patches. There is no chemical control. Infected plants should be removed and destroyed. The virus is transferred by sap sucking insects so prevent these from getting onto your plants. Do not handle healthy plants after dealing with infected specimens. Courgette Defender F1 shows good resistance to this problem.

Aphids and whitefly: These can transfer viruses between plants and/or excrete sticky honeydew onto foliage which can lead to sooty moulds developing. A variety of chemical and organic sprays are available to control infestations. Monitor pest activity with yellow sticky traps above plant foliage.

Foot and root rots: Darkening of stem bases and root deterioration, leading to wilted top growth. This is caused by overwatering on poorly drained soil. There is no control for these once they set in. Plants are best replaced after improving soil conditions.

Zucchini Squash Harvesting: When Is Zucchini Ready To Pick

Zucchini is a prolific, rapid growing vegetable that one minute will be a diminutive 3 inches long and practically overnight becomes a foot and half long monster. It’s not always easy to know when to pick fruits and vegetables and zucchini is no exception. So when is zucchini ready to pick? Read on to find out all the dirt on how and when to harvest zucchini.

Zucchini Squash Harvesting

Zucchini is a summer squash, a member of the Cucurbita family amongst which melons, pumpkins, cucumbers and gourds also reside. Zucchini dates back to 5,500 B.C. in the northern parts of South America. It was then “discovered” by European explorers and introduced into their countries of origin.

Zucchini grows on a bushy, non-vining plant with large, dark green leaves peppered with silvery-grey streaks. These large leaves provide shade to the fruit but also tend to play “hide n’ seek” with it. Hence, one minute you have tiny zucchini and seemingly in the next, gargantuan fruit. That’s why vigilant zucchini plant picking is so important. The mammoth fruit tends to become stringy on the inside with a tough exterior. Generally, when picking zucchini plants, you are looking for smaller, tender fruits that are sweet and mild.

The plants produce both male and female flowers, making it a perfect squash to grow for those with limited space, as the plant does not need another to set fruit. Trust me, one healthy plant will produce more than enough fruit for most small families. In fact, harvesting and storing zucchini at the proper time and conditions will undoubtedly provide ample fruit for not only your family but your friends and extended family as well! So when is zucchini ready to pick?

How and When to Harvest Zucchini

Ideally, zucchini squash harvesting will commence when you have fruit that is 6-8 inches long. Some cultivars have fruit that is still edible at up to a foot long. That said, if you leave the fruit on too long, the seeds and rind harden, making it unpalatable.

If you pick often, fruit production is hastened, which may or may not be a good thing. If you find that you and yours are drowning in more zucchini than can be reasonably used, leave a few fruit on the plant to slow down production.

Fruit should also be dark green (or yellow or white depending upon the variety) and firm. If the fruit feels mushy, it’s probably rotting and should be discarded.

Harvesting and Storing Zucchini

Don’t just pull the fruit from the plant when zucchini squash harvesting. You will likely damage the plant. Cut the fruit from the plant at the stem.

With its broad leaves, zucchini fruit can be difficult to spot, hence, giants are often found hiding where you had never noticed fruit before. Check under the leaves for hidden fruit. Be careful when you are hunting, lest you damage the fragile leaves and stems.

Now that you have harvested the fruit, how do you store it? Store unwashed zucchini in a perforated or open plastic bag for up to a week or freeze the fruit for use later down the road. There are a couple of ways to do this. I shred unpeeled zucchini, drain it in a colander and then squeeze it gently to remove excess moisture.

Place it in sealed quart size freezer bags and freeze them flat so they can be stacked in the freezer. I shred because the end result will likely be zucchini bread or fried zucchini cakes. You can also wash the fruit, dry it, and cut it into one inch cubes and then freeze it in freezer bags. Either way, frozen zucchini lasts up to 3 months.

Zucchini beginning fruit development

Growing conditions. Plant zucchini in full sun in compost rich, well-drained soil. Zucchini likes to get its start in the spot where it will grow, but if you want to get a jump on the season, start seed indoors 3 to 4 weeks before the last expected frost in 4-inch biodegradable pots (that can be set directly in the ground at planting time so that the roots are not disturbed). A week before transplanting, harden off seedlings by cutting back on water and lowering the nighttime temperature to 65°F.

Sowing or setting out starts. Zucchini wants warm soil and air temperatures for growing—in the 70s°F is optimal. Zucchini seed won’t germinate in cold soil. Wait until the soil temperature has reached 60°F before direct seeding or setting out starts. Lay down a sheet of black plastic to warm the soil before sowing or planting. Plants started in chilly temperatures may become stunted.

Avoid too much zucchini. You can avoid too many zucchinis at harvest by simply not overplanting. One zucchini plant will produce 6 to 10 pounds of fruit over the course of the season. Stagger plantings so that you have a continuous harvest but are not overwhelmed.

Spacing. Space plants 2 to 4 feet apart to provide air circulation and discourage disease. A good planting strategy is to plant zucchini on low hills that easily warm in spring. Sow three seeds to a hill and when seedlings have one true leaf, thin the starts to one per hill—just snip off the weakest plants with scissors so as not to disturb the roots of the one that remains.

Pollination. Zucchini is a monoecious plant, meaning each plant has both male and female flowers. A female flower has a small swelling (the ovary) at the base of its short-stem. A male flower has a long, thin stem—and is usually larger than the female. Bees and insects must visit the male flower then the female flower for pollination.

Cross pollination. Do squash plants easily cross pollinate? Yes! But cross-pollination affects next year’s crop, not this year’s crop. If you grow zucchini from newly purchased seed each year, you won’t have to worry about plants cross pollinating. Only if you save seed, should you grow just one variety at a time.

Chilling injury. Temperatures too cold will pit the skin of zucchini. This is called chilling injury. Keep a floating row cover handy to cover seedlings and young plants if the temperature dips below 65°F at night.

Watering. Keep the soil evenly moist. Give zucchini 1 inch of water a week. The critical time for watering is during bud development and flowering. Once plants are established, mulch with straw, hay, or dried leaves to retain soil moisture and suppress weeds. Drought stressed plants are more susceptible to insect attacks.

Feeding. Zucchini are heavy feeders. Prepare the planting bed with lots of organic matter—a few inches of aged compost spread across the bed and then turned under. If leaves grow pale or plants seem weak, side-dress zucchini with well-aged compost or use a foliar spray of liquid fish or kelp fertilizer—high in phosphorus for fruit production. Don’t use a fertilizer too high in nitrogen; it will diminish your yield.

Lots of flowers, no fruit. If your plants are flowering but not producing fruit, there is may not be enough bees around for pollination. Hand pollinate flowers with a cotton swab—gather pollen from the male flower and dab it on to the golden stigma in the center of the female flower.

Harvest. Zucchini should be picked young and tender for the very best flavor. Once fruits are 4 inches long, it’s time to start the harvest. Zucchini can grow 1 to 2 inches a day so check your plants every day at harvest time. Zucchini that grows very large will be pulpy, seedy, and bitter flavored.

Cucumber beetles. Cucumber beetles emerge from dormancy in spring before the weather is warm enough for cucumbers or zucchini to begin growing. When zucchini starts growing, cucumber beetles will begin feeding on leaves and fruits. Check cucumber beetles–little yellow beetles with stripes or spots–with yellow sticky traps or cover plants with a floating row cover, but be sure to remove the cover when flowers appear and it’s pollination time.

Squash vine borers. Squash vine borers (the larvae of wasp-like moths) bore into zucchini stems and eat their way through stems. Look for sawdust-like excrement near small holes to know they are present. Plants suddenly wilt and may die. Slit the damaged vine with a sharp knife and remove the borers with a tweezers. Cover the damaged section with well-aged compost and the plant will grow on.

Blossom-end rot. Irregular watering and a soil calcium deficiency can result in poor water uptake that will result in the blossom end of the fruit (opposite the stem) becoming leathery and sunken; this is called blossom-end rot. Use ground oyster shells or a calcium-rich fertilizer to counter blossom-end rot.

Zucchini Varieties to grow:

  • Ambassador: cylindrical, dark green early variety; 50 days to harvest.
  • Costata Romanesco: great tasting, nutty flavored Italian zucchini; ribbed, gray-green with pale green flecks; 52 days to harvest.
  • Eight Ball: nutty, buttery flavor from dark green globe fruit; 40 days to harvest.
  • French White: white fruit on small bushes for small gardens; 50 days to harvest.
  • Gold Rush: uniform, cylindrical fruit, AAS winter; 45 days to harvest.
  • Spacemiser: high yield from small bush, green fruit can be harvested as baby squash; 45 days to harvest.
  • Seneca: dark green, cylindrical fruit on small bush; 42 days to harvest.

Zucchini marrows

Note Number: AG0259
Published: April 1995
Updated: June 2011 and September 2013

Zucchini is an immature vegetable marrow. It is a member of Cucurbitacea family (also known as the Gourd family) which also consists of pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, and melons. Zucchini is one of the easiest vegetables to cultivate in temperate climates.

Zucchini is 96% water and is low in energy and carbohydrates. It contains useful amounts of Vitamin A (as carotenoids called lutein) and B (as folate), potassium and manganese.

Zucchini and marrows (larger more mature zucchini) are annuals, have a bush habit and are frost-prone at all stages of growth. Rapid germination and vigorous growth occur when soil temperature reaches 20°C. First fruits can often be harvested from 40 to 50 days after sowing.

Zucchini are usually dark green, but may also be yellow or light green and they have a similar shape to a cucumber. There are a few cultivars with round or bottle shaped fruits.

Most commercially grown zucchini cultivars are hybrids because they are usually heavier producers than open-pollinating types.

Zucchini bears separate male and female flowers and pollination is assisted mainly by bees. If poorly pollinated, fruits will fall off and if partially pollinated fruit will develop unevenly.

Disease resistant or tolerant cultivars may be the most appropriate types for areas prone to certain problems like Watermelon Mosaic Virus (WMV) or mildews. There is a range of resistant and tolerant varieties available. Tolerant varieties show few symptoms of infection where as resistant varieties have a reduced level of infection.

Many cultivars are available. Some of the more commonly grown varieties are Congo, Calendia, and Hummer other dark green varieties include Blackjack, Stinger and Midnight. Lighter-skinned cultivars known as Lebanese zucchini include Columbia, Greyzini and Nebo. Yellow or golden cultivars include Sunburst, Gold Coast and Goldsmith. These are just a few of the cultivars available and growers should consult seed companies for latest cultivars as new ones are released frequently.

Soils

Light soils that warm quickly are suitable for early sowings; heavier soils are better suited to plantings that will be producing through the heat of late summer and early autumn. Early season plants may be grown in plastic covered beds to hasten soil warming and reduce weed competition.

Whatever the soil type, the crop will do best if the soil is well structured and drained and has plenty of organic matter. Crops are normally grown on raised beds and the top 5 cm of the bed should be loose to allow the seedlings to emerge freely.

Fertilisers

If necessary, apply lime to raise the pH to about 6.0 to 6.5. In this pH range, most nutrients present in the soil are available to the plants without being at toxic levels. One or two weeks before sowing, apply a complete fertiliser mixture at the rate of 750 to 1100 kg per hectare (from 75 to 110 g per m2) depending on soil type and fertility. Fertile soils will require lower rates of basal fertiliser and NPK of 5:8:4 or 6:6:6 are suitable. For low fertile soils NPK of 8:11:10 is suitable with reduced rate of about 550 to 880 kg per hectare.

Side-dressings at flowering or fruit-set need only contain nitrogen and/or potassium. NPK of 20:0:16 at 225 kg per hectare is adequate or if the soil is rich in potassium, apply 45 kg per hectare of sulphate of ammonia.

For low fertile or sandy soils fowl manure or other organic fertilisers can be applied at the rate of 30 to 50 m3 per hectare around two to three weeks before sowing.

Farmers should be aware of the potential dangers of using phosphatic fertilisers with high levels of cadmium.

If cadmium in a fertiliser is in excess of 1 mg/kg, the label or advice note must contain the statement:

“WARNING – use of this product may result in cadmium residues in excess of the Maximum Permissible Concentration (MPC) in plant and animal products and may also result in the accumulation of residues in soils”.

DPI is concerned of long-term accumulation of heavy metals in soils and believes that accurate product information assists primary producers to maintain sustainable agricultural practices. Low concentrations of heavy metals generally occur naturally in soils, however, these concentrations occasionally increase due to exposure to industrial sources or containments in fertilizers. Compliance of fertilizer products to regulated standards supports sustainable agricultural systems and helps to reduce the potential for accumulation of heavy metals in soils and plants.

Growers should consult fertiliser suppliers or manufacturers for advice on the cadmium levels of fertilisers they are considering using.

Planting

Frost-prone areas should be avoided earlier and late in the season. Soil temperatures should be above 20°C. Planting can be done either with seeds or seedlings. If seedlings are transplanted the soil should be moist and irrigated as soon as possible afterwards. When direct seeding is used seeds should be planted about 3 cm deep and if soil is cool plant shallow 1.5 to 2.0 cm.

Sowings can extend from early spring to mid summer depending on the chance of frost, soil temperature and the expected length of the growing season.
The plants are generally grown in rows around 1.2 to 1.8m apart and from 50 to 90cm between plants. This gives a population of 9,000 to 11, 000 plants per hectare.

An alternative system is to sow double rows of plants 75cm apart with a pathway of about 1.4 metres between pairs of rows.

Weed control

It is essential to control weeds during the early growth of the crop. Weeds germinating after the zucchini have three or four leaves are not as serious a threat because shade from the crop canopy makes it harder for the weeds to grow.

Some broad leaf weeds can be controlled using as a pre-emergent post planting application. Otherwise hand-weeding and shallow cultivation are necessary to control weeds. Planting into plastic covered beds will greatly with weed control.

Grass weeds may be controlled with selective herbicides, which can be used post emergent.

Pests and diseases

Common pests include cutworms, thrips, leafhoppers, aphids, two spotted mite and pumpkin beetle. While key diseases include powdery mildew and downy mildew.

For descriptions of these pests and diseases see the “Field Identification Guide – Pests, Beneficials, Diseases and Disorders in Cucurbits;” produced by the NSW Department of Primary Industry.

There are chemicals registered for control of these pests and diseases and they are sold under various trade names. Follow the label for directions before use. Contact your chemical supplier or the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website will provide you with a current list of registered chemical that can be used on zucchini (APVMA website)

Integrated pest management

The modern approach to crop protection is to manage pest and diseases so they do not cause economic losses to the crop. This involves crop monitoring so that you know the correct identification of the pest/disease, the level of pest infestation and numbers of beneficials in the crop. Regular crop inspection means you can make informed decisions about when to spray.

Chemical choices should be governed by resistance strategies and the use of soft chemicals where available. Soft chemicals target the pest insect and may not harm some parasites or predators of the pest (beneficial insects). Spray application for pest control should only be carried out when pest levels are high and control is not being achieved. It is also important to destroying crop residues to avoid pest and disease carry over.

Irrigation

Irrigation is generally required and yields will suffer if the crop does not get enough moisture. Other than wilting the most common symptom of uneven or inadequate watering is blossom end rot. This calcium deficiency shows up as sunken dark patches of dry rot at the end of the fruit. Plants will need consistent and even watering to avoid this problem.

Trickle or drip irrigation is increasingly popular and is very effective in maintaining even soil moisture. Both furrow and overhead irrigation will lead to more fungal and mildew problems compared with drip because the foliage is more likely to be wet for extended periods of time.

It is important to schedule irrigation to ensure that the right amount is being applied. Too little and plants will be stressed and yield will suffer and too much can lead to leaching of nutrients and increased risk of disease problems. Irrigation can be scheduled using a range of methods such as measuring soil moisture levels using tensiometers or environscan® (there is a large range of moisture measuring equipment available) or by measuring evaporation.

Harvesting and storage

If treated well and the weather is favourable harvesting of zucchini can be started 6 weeks after planting and can continue for up to 12 weeks. Fruit needs to be picked at least every second day to maintain the desirable fruit size when the weather is warm. Because of its rapid growth, the fruit soon becomes too large. Constant picking also prevents formation of seed and stimulates further fruit-set.

One plant can produce up to 40 fruit a season if properly cared for. Yields vary from 12 to 18 tonnes per hectare.

The preferred market length of fruit is from 10 to 20 cm. Zucchini are generally marketed in 10-kg cases or packed into the standard black crate if going directly to the supermarket.

The preferred post-harvest conditions for zucchini are storage at 5-10°C and 95% humidity. They are highly sensitive to ethylene and will show signs of chilling injury when stored below 5°C for more than a day.

Further references

“Field Identification Guide – Pests, Beneficials, Diseases and Disorders in Cucurbits;” (2009), Department of Primary Industries, NSW.

Contact/Services available

Correct diagnosis is essential for effective pest and disease control. A commercial diagnostic service is available at the AgriBio Bundoora.

For further information, phone Crop Health Services on (03) 9032 7515.

For further information on registered chemicals, phone our Customer Services Centre on 136 186.

Acknowledgements

This Agriculture Note was developed by Robert Dimsey, Farm Services in September 1994.
It was revised by Rob Dimsey and Neville Fernando, Farm Services in June 2011.

ISSN 1329-8062

Published and Authorised by:
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
1 Spring Street
Melbourne, Victoria

This publication is copyright. No part may be reproduced by any process except in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968.

The advice provided in this publication is intended as a source of information only. Always read the label before using any of the products mentioned. The State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication

How to grow: Cucumber, pumpkin, zucchini, squash and watermelon

At a glance

Ease of culture: Easy
Where: All except very cold climate
Best climate: Warm conditions
When: Spring, summer, autumn in cool areas, winter in warm to hot areas
Spacing: Cucumber 20-30cm; zucchini 1m; pumpkin 2m
Harvest: Cucumber 8-10 weeks; zucchini 6-8 weeks; pumpkin 15-20 weeks
pH: 5.5-6.8

Climate

• Cucurbits require warm, frost-free conditions
• In cool areas, start seedlings early in pots by a sunny window or protected by a mini-glasshouse and plant in spring when the soil warms.
• Cucurbits can grow for much of the year in the tropics, but perform best in the dry season (April – September) – cucurbits are highly susceptible to fungal disease and rotting in the wet.
• Spring and autumn are best for zucchini and cucumber in the subtropics, but watermelons and pumpkins will continue to thrive throughout the summer.

Position

• All cucurbits prefer full sun
• Their foliage is easily damaged and dried out in wind – particularly zucchini and squash – so find a protected spot where possible

Soil

• Cucurbits demand a rich, open organic soil with excellent drainage.
• Enrich the soil before planting with generous amounts of compost or well-rotted manure
• Create a planting mound for each plant to further improve drainage

Sowing

• In temperate and subtropical areas, sow and plant cucurbits seedlings from September to January. In cooler areas, start plants in pots in September and grow them under glass until the soil is warm enough for planting in October/November.
• Seedlings are readily available in garden centres during the planting season, but cucurbits are very easy to sow from seed directly in the soil.
• Sowing your own seed allows you to try some of the more unusual heirloom varieties not normally available as seedlings.
• Plant 2-3 seeds in each planting mound 10cm apart, and then thin them out to leave only the strongest seedling.
• Water seeds in well, but don’t water them again until they germinate – they are very prone to rotting.
• Don’t overcrowd cucurbits. They are very prone to fungal disease and need good airflow around the vines. In general, allow 2m between pumpkin and watermelon vines, 1m between zucchinis and squash and 20-30cm between cucumbers

Watering and fertilising

• Cucurbits are vigorous growers. To maintain healthy growth, give plants a light application of an all-purpose organic fertiliser in the first week after germination and follow up with regular light applications every 3-4 weeks.
• They have lots of foliage and dry out easily, so keep soil at the base of plants evenly moist once they’re up and running. Irregular watering can lead to poor production and poor-quality fruit.
• Keep water off foliage and fruit where possible to reduce fungal disease.

Training

• All cucurbit vines will climb if you let them.
• This is the best way to grow cucumbers. Install a 1-2m-high trellis at planting to support vines and fruit. This saves space and keeps fruit off the ground.
• Pumpkins and melons can be trained over a sunny shed or pergola to save space in small gardens

Box: Overcoming poor fruit set

Poor fruit set in cucurbits is often due to inadequate pollination and lack of bees. Pollinating flowers by hand will guarantee a sizeable crop and is easy to do. Identify the male and female flowers. Males have long slender stems and female flowers have a swollen base, like an immature fruit. Pick off a male flower, remove the petals to reveal the central ‘style” and brush the pollen onto the pistil inside the female flower. The best time to do this is early morning. Check plants daily.

Harvesting

Use secateurs to remove cucurbits from their vines to avoid damage to fruit and vines. Leave a length of stem on the fruit to keep disease organisms that can rot fruit from entering fruit postharvest.
Pumpkin – Harvest when stems are hard and dry. Clean and dry fruit and store in a cool, airy and dry spot.
Watermelon – Picking a ripe watermelon from the garden is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Give the fruit a tap – a ripe melon will have a dull thud sound. Also check the skin of the fruit where it meets the ground. It should be a yellow-white colour when mature.
Rockmelon – Smell the fruit. Ripe rockmelons have a strong sweet smell and come away freely from the vine. Store in the fridge.
Zucchini and squash – Harvest young (zucchini 15-20cm long, squash 7-15cm wide) and store excess in the fridge. Bigger fruit become watery and lose flavour. Check and harvest plants every 1-2 days.
Cucumber – Depends on variety and use. Small fruit less than 10cm long are best for pickling. Harvest young to avoid large seeds.

How to Cut Zucchini 5 Different Ways

There’s definitely more than one way to cut a zucchini, and how you cut it can determine how you use it. Shredded zucchini is best for baking, cored zucchini is ideal for stuffing, and zucchini noodles deserve their own spotlight entirely. If you’re unsure of how to take full advantage of your zucchini this summer, we’re here to help with tips for each different cutting method (and a few zucchini recipes for a taste-test, of course).

How to Slice Zucchini Into Coins

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Probably the most common way to cut up zucchini, zucchini coins are crosswise slices of zucchini. Use a knife to cut the two ends off the zucchini, then make cuts across the zucchini to slice coins. You can also use a mandoline by cutting off one end of the zucchini, then dragging it across the mandoline. Unlike slicing with a knife, the mandoline will ensure that all of your zucchini coins are the same size!

How to Make Zucchini Noodles

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The trick to making your own zucchini noodles is to invest in a spiralizer. Follow the instructions for your model of spiralizer for the best results, but you can usually follow a few basic tips. There’s no need to peel your zucchini before making zucchini noodles, but it does help to trim both ends—this will create an even surface for anchoring the zucchini to the handle and the blade of your spiralizer. Use even pressure when you turn the handle to push the zucchini through the blade so your noodles are the same size and shape. Spiralizer blades can create varying thicknesses of the zucchini noodles, but in most instances when you’re cooking the zoodles prior to serving, you’ll want them to be about the same thickness as fettuccine. This way, the zucchini holds its shape without becoming limp.

How to Slice Zucchini into Strips

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Slicing zucchini into long strips might seem daunting, but with help from a mandoline it’s super easy! Just like you would for zucchini coins, drag the zucchini lengthwise across your mandoline (be sure to use the hand guard for safety!) to create uniform slices. Slices that are about 1/8 inch thick are great for pickling because they’re thin enough to absorb brine but thick enough to still maintain their crunch. You can also create thin ribbons of zucchini using a vegetable peeler.

If you don’t have either of those tools, just use a knife to cut the zucchini lengthwise, and do your best to make the slices similar in thickness.

How to Core Zucchini

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You may not have tried coring zucchini before, so don’t miss out! Slice both ends off the zucchini, then use an apple corer or sturdy spoon to core from both ends to get to the center of a medium zucchini. For longer veggies, halve the zucchini crosswise first for easy handling. You can stuff cored zucchini with meat, cheese, or other veggies, or cut it in half lengthwise to make zucchini boats.

How to Shred Zucchini

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Shredded zucchini is excellent for using in baked goods like zucchini bread and zucchini cakes. There’s no need to peel your zucchini before shredding—just slice off one end. Then push the zucchini through the large holes of your box grater or plane grater, starting from the top of the grating surface and moving your zucchini to the bottom of the grater. If you want more finely shredded zucchini, push it through the smaller holes of a box grater or use a plane grater with smaller holes. To avoid cutting your fingers once you’re down to the last small piece of zucchini, cut the remaining piece by hand into small strips using a sharp knife.

Bonus: Cooking with Zucchini Flowers

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Don’t stop at just using the veggie! You can put even more of your zucchini plant to good use when you learn how to cook with squash blossoms and zucchini flowers. You can do just about anything with them, including deep-frying, adding them to cake, and even making zucchini flower tacos! If you grow your own zucchini and squash, learning to cook with squash blossoms puts them to use and makes your plate even prettier.

  • By Andrea Beck

How to Slice and Dice Zucchini

Use your chef’s knife to slice and chop fresh zucchini. To slice zucchini into rounds, first cut off the blossom end and the stem end. Hold one end of the zucchini in place with your hand. Then cut it into rounds of the desired thickness, by keeping the tip of the knife resting on the cutting board, and using a rocking motion with the other end of the knife. Keep the knife in one place on the board and push the zucchini toward the knife. To slice zucchini into strips, first cut off the blossom end and the stem end. Then cut the zucchini lengthwise into to 3 or 4 strips. To dice the zucchini, cut the stack of strips lengthwise down the middle, turn the strips sideways, and then cut them into small cubes. Get the Recipe: Sautéed Squash and Zucchini
Get the Recipe: Italian Brunch Casserole
Get the Recipe: Zucchini Oven Chips
Get the Recipe: Garden Minestrone
Get the Recipe: Vegetable Lasagna

Hide Transcript

<p>To slice zucchini into rounds, first cut off the blossom end and the stem end. Hold one end of the zucchini in place with your hand.&nbsp; Then cut it into rounds of the desired thickness, by keeping the tip of the knife resting on the cutting board, and using a rocking motion with the other end of the knife. Keep the knife in one place on the board and push the zucchini toward the knife.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To slice zucchini into strips, first cut off the blossom end and the stem end. Then cut the zucchini&nbsp; lengthwise into to 3 or 4 strips.</p> <p>To dice the zucchini, cut the stack of strips lengthwise down the middle, turn the strips sideways, and then cut them into small cubes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>

Courgette

The courgette is a variety of cucurbit, which means it’s from the same family as cucumber, squash and melon. It’s one of the most popular vegetables in the squash family, being extremely versatile, tender and easy to cook. Just don’t boil them! They have a deep green skin with firm pale flesh and are also known as zucchini.

Availability

Courgettes are at their best from June until September.

Choose the best

Choose small courgettes that are firm to touch with a glossy, unblemished skin. Avoid soft, squishy courgettes.

Prepare it

Courgettes don’t need peeling. Slice off each end and prepare as the recipe directs. They can be sliced thinly and eaten raw.

Watch our video guide for tips on how to spiralize courgettes

Store it

Refrigerate in a vegetable storage bag in the crisper compartment and eat within 2-3 days.

Cook it

It’s best not to boil them, as they become mushy and lose their flavour. Instead lightly fry in butter or oil and a small amount of water. You can also roast them until tender and lightly golden to intensify their favour, or marinate and BBQ or griddle until charred and soft. Enjoy them in a stir-fry, curry or fried in a light batter.

Recipe suggestions

Try them grated and fried in our courgette fritters recipe, in an elegant but simple starter like our courgette carpaccio or try our easy oven-based ratatouille & sausages for a filling family meal. Want something sweet? Bake up a batch of our courgette muffins.

Check out our ultimate courgette recipe collection for more inspiration.

Alternatives

Try squash or marrow.

Buying food plants

Get a helping hand with your own growing, with our locally grown food plants.

Our 2019 plant sales are:

  • Sunday 31 March, 28 April, 26 May, 30 June and 25 August, 29 September (12-4pm) at Hawkwood Nursery.
  • Every Wednesday in May on our farm stall at Hawkwood Nursery (10am-5.30pm).
  • Every Saturday in May at our market stall at the Hornbeam (10am-3pm).

Our plants:

We grow all the plants ourselves in our glasshouse that we rent from the London Borough of Waltham Forest. Work is carried out by a team of growers including members of our workers’ cooperative and lots of local volunteers who support the project’s aim to see more food growing in London. Plants are taken from the glasshouses and acclimatised to the outdoors before being dispatched. The plants are strong and healthy, ready to compete with weed seedlings and garden pests!

What’s available:

Our main plant season is from April to June, and then for winter plants it’s August and September. We have some plants ready for sale, others are ‘sow to order’ and ready 4 weeks after ordering.

Download the Plant list to see what’s available. We have popular favourites such as tomatoes, squash, courgettes and more on sale – plants that are hard to get started without a greenhouse, and we offer aftercare advice.

We aim to have full availability on our plant stalls through the season, but if you are seeking particular varieties we can take orders (minimum order 5 plants). As some plants are sown to order, dispatch may take up to four weeks. For bulk orders we need as much notice as possible but can offer a discount (see below for details) – and we can help you select a suitable range of plants, for example a school package with plants which will be ready to harvest and eat either before or after the summer holidays.

Talk to us so we can help you get that food garden growing!
email: [email protected]
phone: 020 8524 4994

Delivery:
We may be able to deliver larger orders (over £50). Cost for delivery (to cover fuel and driver costs) from £15 depending on distance.

Bulk order discounts:

£200+ (5% off); £300+ (10% off); 400+ (15% off); £500+ (20% off)

Compost

We also sell a range of hand-made composts; seed compost, potting-on compost and organic garden compost.

Flower power

From June to October we sell cut flowers – fresh, organic, seasonal, local flowers that are beautiful and also in many cases edible! Details of what you can order and how are here.

Theo and Nina with this moment’s flowers. Photo: Martin Slavin

On getting seedlings through Organiclea’s pre-order plants scheme:
“We’ve loved getting our seedlings and plants from Organiclea – from the friendly and convenient delivery to the variety and vigour of the plants, the service and the product have been excellent and I have recommended them to all the growers I know. This has saved us a lot of time and space which has been put to use on the people involved and the plants we already have. On top of that, it’s exciting to await their arrival, plus, if you are really keen you can even go and visit them growing up at Hawkwood. Importantly, we like to know that we are supporting a local cooperatively managed organisation.”
Alex Collings – gardening at Somerford and Shacklewell Estate, Hackney.
Along with many other accolades, this site was the winner of Capital Growth’s Edible Estate competition in 2010.

Return your pots

Organiclea reuses plant pots. They can be returned to the Hawkwood Plant Nursery in Chingford, or the Hornbeam Centre in Walthamstow.

Adopt a fruit tree
Join Organiclea’s Orchard Project and help us care for over 200 fruit trees in the London Borough of Waltham Forest. Click on the image for more information.

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