General Growing Advice
Using a good quality multi-purpose compost, pot up your plugs into 10cm pots. Once your plug plants have been potted on and labelled, water them in well and grow on for around 5-6 weeks. Water once the compost starts to dry out but remember.
If preferred you can pot on the plugs into hanging baskets, flower bags or pots. Add a slow release plant food like Miracle-Gro Slow Release All Purpose Plant Food to your compost which will give extra nutrients for strong and healthy plant growth.
Keep plants frost free until mid/late May and then harden off before being placed in their final positions when the risk of frost has passed in your area.
Water as necessary giving a liquid feed such as Neudorff Organic Plant Feed as instructed throughout the growing season.
***For packs of 40 plug plants gently remove the small plugs from the tray by pushing up from the bottom using a pencil.
Courgette Specific Advice
Courgettes will grow in a large pot (at least 15 litres) but can become lopsided. They are easier to keep watered in the ground. Allow an area of about 60cm diameter per plant.
Pick the fruits regularly – at least twice a week in midsummer – to prolong cropping. Cut, rather than pull the fruit when it is 10-15cm long or up to 6cm across if a round variety.
Encouraging courgette flowers
Usually the flowers wither and drop off once the fruit reaches a decent size. Try Italian varieties like ‘Costa Romanesco’.
The trick, if you want flowers, is to pick very early in the morning before they open and settle for a smaller fruit as well. The male flowers can also be stuffed and fried, or added to a salad.
Success with early courgettes
Courgettes are very sensitive to frost; extend the season by growing them in a frost-free greenhouse. With last-frost dates getting earlier, it’s worth making an earlier sowing in March, to have plants ready to go outside in April.
Have some garden fleece handy in case of frost and sow some at the usual time as back-up.
As courgettes are insect-pollinated, they may not set fruit this early in the season. Fortunately, parthenocarpic varieties (whose female flowers set fruit without pollination) are now available – try dark green ‘Parthenon’ and pale green ‘Cavili’. Both should crop until July when moved outside.
Pests and diseases
Regular watering and plenty of space may help to prevent mildew
When first planted, courgettes can be attacked by slugs, so protect them with barriers. Once they get going, they don’t suffer from insect pests, although aphids can spread fatal viruses.
Mosaic viruses cause the leaves to turn yellow and puckered, and the fruits may also be affected. There’s no cure, but removing badly affected leaves may slow its spread. The varieties ‘Defender’ and ‘Supremo’ are claimed to be resistant.
Powdery mildew frequently affects plants in late summer. Regular watering and plenty of space may help. A routine spray with potassium bicarbonate is said to keep it at bay, but once it has taken hold, cut your losses and destroy the plants.