The weather forecast has been kind to us this week and it forecasts over 7 degrees at night even for the Northern Counties. This should eliminate the risk of frost and it is time to plant out your courgette plants. I would wait a couple of weeks with outdoor cucumber plants as they are slightly tenderer. The plants should still be hardened off if they are coming from a warm environment. If it isn’t practical to bring them back inside for the first few nights, at least make sure that you plant them out in the morning where they have the warmer daytime weather to greet them first. As a precaution, I always leave a few inside so that if the first ones fail due to a sudden turn in the weather I will have a few plants to fall back on.
Courgettes are really baby marrows but they are much easier to grow. They are also very easy to grow from seed, just make sure the compost is not too wet so that the seeds will not rot. There is still time to plant up some seeds, but if you are in a rush, ready potted plants are available from most garden centres for around £1.50 each. Some gardeners like to remove the first true leaf as it makes a more compact plant but I have not yet found proof for this practice. Soil that has been enriched with compost will definitely give a better crop, but basic garden soil will still produce a small crop, just make sure to choose a sunny spot.
At first the male flowers will emerge, these are closely followed by the female ones that have a tiny courgette behind them, do not remove the male flowers as unless you have a parthenocarpic variety, the male flowers are essential for pollination and fruit formation.
I never let the fruits grow larger than 15 – 20cm as my wife says that they begin to get bitter if they are left to get larger. Also, the plant will stop producing more courgettes if you leave them to get large. At the end of the season, I usually leave a few to become marrows as only the hard skinned large marrows can be stored through the winter.
Why not plant a compact variety at the back of your flower border. The large yellow flowers (besides being edible if you prefer them to the fruit!), and the courgettes that follow will definitely bring a more architectural look to your border, with the added benefit of being able to accompany your Sunday roast.
Money saving tip:
If you are in need of a new set of garden shears or loppers, remember, it is worth buying good tools some cheap loppers are so weak and blunt they will not even be able to cut through a thin twig. The downside of buying strong tools is of course the cost, many of the better makes tend to charge a premium for their quality tools. However, if you live near a NETTO (which have recently sprung up near many Sainsbury’s Stores) they have a spot offer this week of Fiskars loppers and shears for a mere £18 when the average retail price is between £27 and £30.
Quite a snip!
Enjoy your gardening week!
Next week: ‘Buying Bedding Plants’ – don’t be caught out without our handy tips.