What I'm planting this spring: Courgettes

01:43, Oct 31 2012

My colleague thinks I'm kind of mad. "By the time courgettes are ready in the garden," she says, "they're only a $1 in the shops." She may be right - growing courgettes makes little economic sense - but I am still planting courgettes this year, and will do every year, I imagine, until I die. 

Why? Because they're so easy peasy to grow, and they crop prolifically, and well, they're just so easy! They restore my faith that I can actually do this gardening gig.

I have two different varieties to plant this year, both from Kings Seeds, gold rush and organic black beauty. They have just emerged from the seed raising mix, and are currently sunbathing on the lounge windowsill. The first of them are getting their 'true' leaves and I'll be hardening them up soon, then planting them in a sheltered sunny spot in Shirley's garden, where I had tomatoes last year. 

Courgettes, also known as zucchini, are members of the cucurbit family, along with pumpkins, watermelons, squash and cucumbers. They like sun, and lots of it. They like food, and lots of it. When I plant them out, I'll be digging a hole, filling it with soil mixed with zoo doo and compost, and planting the courgette so it's kind of on a mound. I don't have any idea why courgettes need a mound, but it's apparently what you do. 

Courgettes will flower, male flowers are usually first, then female flowers. You can tell the difference because the female flowers will have a wee swelling on the stem. That's the baby courgette waiting to be switched on by pollination. Bees and other insects pollinate the female flowers with pollen from the male flowers, but if they're a bit lacklustre, you can use a little paint brush to do it yourself. 

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Fruiting plants like tomatoes and courgettes get a kick from liquid fertilisers like my seaweed and nettle tea. To ensure they get lots of warmth and that the soil stays nice and moist, they need a good layer of mulch under each plant. 

Keep an eye on your courgettes while they are cropping - it only takes a few days for them to get to a decent length, and a few days more before they morph into giant marrows, which aren't half as tasty to eat.

Are you planting courgettes this year? How do you tend them?

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Photo: Rob Kitchin/Fairfax