HOW TO GROW COURGETTES WITH KIDS
People have a love hate relationship with courgettes and squashes. They are very easy to grow but are seen to be a little bland. They do need a little help to be tasty, but in my opinion they are worth it.
Courgettes are a wonderful starting crop for kids because they..
- Have large seeds which are easy to handle
- Grow very quickly and are an impressive size and shape.
- Continue to grow lots of courgettes all summer long. Not just a one off crop.
- Come is various shapes and colours.
We use a lot of them in pasta sauces, frittata’s and best of all cake. YES CAKE!! Well a cake bread which is amazing when toasted with a little butter on top. (a poached egg goes well too) Strange but true! Here is my recipe for courgette bread/cake if your interested.The BEST Courgette Bread recipe
OK SO WHAT DO YOU NEED?
Courgettes and squashes come in a lot of different colours, sizes and shapes, but the 2 main different types are-
Summer squash -such as courgette and pattipans. These are best used straight away
Winter squash such as pumpkins are great for storing until well after Christmas.
They are fast growing plants and need a lot of food and water. Lots of compost or well rotted manure is needed for strong healthy plants that produce lots of courgettes.
TIME TO GROW?..
Choose a sunny spot for your plants and dig in some well rotted manure in the autumn.
If you have heavy soil like mine, it’s best to rake the soil into a mound and plant into the top of this. That way the plant doesn’t sit in wet soil which causes the stems to rot.
In April, we sow 2 seeds on their side in a large pot (or an old noodle pot) on my windowsill and cover with about a centimetre of soil. Water the soil lightly. After a few days the leaves erupt from the soil. The kids love this, it is quite a dramatic change.
Once the leaves show, I divide the 2 plants into their own pots to give them both a good chance to grow really big. Now keep them on a warm window sill indoors, keep potting them into bigger pots as the roots show out of the bottom of each pot.
Nearer the end of May start putting your plants out into a sheltered area on nice days. Start with an hour a day and increase the time until the plants are happy outdoors. The plants need this adjustment time to get used to the change in light, wind and rain etc. Be careful about leaving them out in cool weather and cold nights to begin with, these plants need the warmth and won’t grow well if they are too cold.
Once the weather is warm enough- usually the start of June when all frost is passed- I dig a hole near the mound and ‘plant’ a plastic bottle upside down with the bottom cut off to act as a funnel to water directly to the roots. This way I can avoid getting the leaves wet during watering and causing mould problems.
After planting the plants, I sprinkle some Blood Fish and Bone powder around the plant and cover with fleece to protect it for a few days till it settles in. These plants don’t like cold weather.
Once your plant is growing strongly, pinch out the growing tip around 60CM long. This means the plant can’t keep exploring and the plant puts its energy into growing flowers and fruit.
Keep watering regularly via your bottle in the soil and keep feeding your plant once a week. You can use a high potash feed but being frugal I always make my own comfrey and nettle feed.
THE STINKY STUFF
Chop up some comfrey leaves and some singing nettles into a tub with a lid. Add water once you’ve packed in the leaves and cover. Let it stew for 4 to 6 weeks -when it smells really bad you know it’s done. Cheap as chips but it’s a wonder drug for plants. Just dilute it so it looks like weak tea and water on. WARNING this concoction smells utterly horrible so don’t make this too close to neighbours as they will not be happy. You’ve been warned.
Courgettes are harvested as soon as they get big enough to eat -about 15 cm I think is best. You really need to keep picking every couple of daysas they can sprint out over night and balloon into a huge lump very fast. They last ok in the fridge for a couple of days and if chopped up can be frozen but they are at thier best used fresh.
Larger squash such as pumpkins and butternuts and other winter ones are left on the plant for as long as possible. Wait until the plant has started to go yellow and the fruit looks fully matured.
It’s best to cut the stem about 30cm from the fruit and left on the ground to harder and cure for around 10 days (unless its very cold or frosty then they can be moved to a frost free place normally my loft or garage
Cured fruit can be kept for 6 months and is great roasted, in stews, muffins and a huge variety of different recipes.
Sow in April indoors and plant out in June. Fruit should start to produce July onwards and winter fruit is harvested around the end of October in time for Halloween in the UK.
So why not give them a go? Let me know what your favourite seeds to grow are. And don’t forget to PIN this for later.