how to plant, grow & care for courgettes
complete growing guide
I love growing courgettes. Not only are they one of the easiest vegetables to grow in the garden, they are also exceptionally productive. One of my favourite things to do is to sow lots of different varieties – just one or two plants of each – rather than one single variety. That way, they look diverse and beautiful in the garden and pretty on the plate.
There are some really lovely, contrasting varieties: there are golden ones as brilliant as the sun; elegant, ribbed courgettes such as ‘Romanesco’, which has excellent flavour and texture that never turns watery, even when quite large; and also small types, such as the pale ivory ‘Bianca de Trieste’. The other fantastic thing about courgettes is that they produce lots of blousy yellow flowers that are good for stuffing and look very attractive, too.
I recommend doing at least two sowings of courgettes, splitting your packets, so that you have fruit to pick for 3-4 months at a stretch. Explore our range of courgette seeds suitable for the veg patch and containers.
- Common name Courgette
- Latin name Cucurbita pepo
- Type Half-Hardy Annual
- Height 90cm (3ft)
- TLC rating Easy
- Aspect Full Sun
- Spacing 90cm (3ft) apart in each direction
- Yield 3 to 4 month harvest
- Suitable for pots Yes, compact varieties
- Grow in a greenhouse No
how to grow courgettes
where to grow courgettes
Soil type: Courgette plants need moist but well-drained soil that’s very fertile. Prepare the planting area two weeks prior to planting seedlings out (or sowing direct). Make a hole about a spade’s depth and width and fill with a mixture of compost or well-rotted manure and soil. Sprinkle a general fertiliser, such as comfrey pellets or Organic GroChar Fertiliser, over the soil.
Aspect & Position: Plant courgettes in full sun.
when to plant courgettes
Sow seed undercover in a greenhouse in March, April or May before planting out after the risk of frost has passed at the end of May. Alternatively, direct sow in May or June.
Succession is really important with sowing courgettes, because it’s better to stagger the harvest rather than have to deal with a huge glut. At Perch HIll, we do a triple sowing, but two is plenty. We sow seeds in March, do a second sowing in April and then a third sowing in May. Our first sowings are usually planted in the greenhouse for early crops and our last keep cropping right into October.
how to plant courgettes
sowing courgette seeds
Sowing courgette seeds is unbelievably easy, as they are quick to germinate. You can sow seed undercover in March, April and May or direct sow outdoors in May and June, after the frosts have passed.
If sowing undercover, sow 1 or 2 seeds per 9cm (3½in) pot, filled with peat-free compost. Push the flat seed on its side into the compost about 2½cm (1in) deep. If sown flat there is a small risk it can rot. If you sow two and they both germinate, remove the weaker one.
If sowing directly outside, sow 2 seeds 2½cm (1in) deep and cover with cloches or jars; leave in place for at least two weeks after seedlings appear. Thin seedlings to leave the strongest one.
Indoor-raised seedlings may require potting on to grow on before planting outside, after the risk of frost has passed. Gradually acclimatise seedlings to outside conditions for two weeks by leaving them outside during the day in a bright, sunny spot and bringing them back in, or covering with horticultural fleece, in the evening.
planting courgette seedlings
Prepare the planting area two weeks prior to planting seedlings out. Make a hole about a spade’s depth and width and fill with a mixture of compost or well-rotted manure and soil. Sprinkle a general fertiliser, such as comfrey Pellets or Organic GroChar Fertiliser, over the soil.
Plant one plant in each planting pocket spaced 90cm (3ftin) apart. Form a shallow crater about 30cm (1ft) in diameter around the plant – this helps when watering, directing the water to the roots.
growing courgettes in a pot
Courgettes work well in containers, but ensure they are a minimum 45cm (18in) in diameter. Allow one plant per container. Courgettes grown in this way will need regular watering as they mature. A good compact variety for containers is ‘All Green Bush’.
how to care for courgettes
Water once a week, taking care not to wet the leaves. A good drench once a week is better than a regular trickle.
Feed every fortnight with a high potash liquid fertiliser, such as Organic Tomato Fertiliser with Seaweed, once the first fruits start to swell.
Once the plants have become really lush and jungle-like, you can start to remove some leaves. This is quite important because otherwise the large leaves hide some of the nascent fruit underneath allowing them to get too big before you notice them. So just cut off some of the bigger, older leaves.
Courgettes should be ready to start picking 8 weeks from sowing. You can start picking from late June and often into October.
Start picking as soon as the fruits are 7cm (3in) long – a good measure is from the tip of your thumb to the base of your thumb. At that size, you get a courgette with a really lovely nutty texture, not watery or full of seeds.
You can pick the flowers before this. The male flower doesn’t have a fruit behind it, and is perfect for stuffing or dipped into a tempura batter and then shallow fried. The female flower does have a fruit behind it and is also lovely to eat. With both, remove the stigma in the middle of the flower and also remove the calyx.
- Sow seeds undercover in March, April or May.
- Direct sow seeds from late May after the risk of frost has passed.
- Prepare planting holes with plenty of manure or well-rotted compost.
- Water courgette plants well at least once a week.
- Start harvesting the fruits once they are 7cm (3in) long.
- Once fruit is swelling, feed every fortnight with a high potash liquid fertiliser.
- You can continue to harvest fruits into September and October.
- Plan which varieties of courgettes you’d like to sow in spring.
pests, diseases & common issues
Powdery mildew can be a problem during hot, dry spells. It’s a fungal disease that shows up as a powdery white coating on the foliage.
Keep the soil moist and move plants to a cooler location if growing in containers. Remember to avoid getting leaves wet while watering and ensure the plant doesn’t suffer stress through over or under watering.
Once it really heats up, give the plants a weekly dousing with chive or comfrey tea, which is a brilliant organic anti-fungus treatment made from rotted-down chive or comfrey leaves. Liberally sprinkle them over the plants and that will really keep mildew at bay for another two or three weeks before the end of the season.
Cool weather early in the summer can cause inadequate pollination meaning fruits fail to develop, but this is usually a temporary problem and once the weather starts to improve so will pollination and the plant will correct itself.
why are my courgettes rotting on the plant?
It could be that the courgette plant is too small and weak to support the full development of the fruit. Alternatively, it could be a stressed plant – ensure you water and feed your plant regularly.
why are my courgette plant leaves turning white?
A white, powdery coating usually indicates powdery mildew.
why is my courgette plant wilting?
Your plant could simply need watering. But the worst case scenario is verticillium wilt – a fungal disease that infects the plants from the roots. Signs include wilting leaves, yellowing leaves and a dieback. The fungal disease lives in the soil, so you need to remove the plant with any soil attached to the roots and dispose of it.
why does my courgette plant have yellow leaves?
Some yellow leaves on a courgette plant is normal, however it could be a sign of verticillium wilt.
how to stop my courgette plant falling over?
Generally, courgette plants do not need staking. If planted at the correct depth and fed and watered regularly, they can hold themselves up. If your plant is in a very exposed site and has grown tall and heavy, you could tie it into a cane to help support it. You can also cut off some of the bigger leaves to reduce the weight on the stems. Courgette plants can also be trained to grow over a structure.
why did the stems of my courgette plant break?
Heavy wind and rain can damage stems, particularly of mature plants that have lush foliage. If your plant is getting very jungle-like, cut off some of the biggest leaves to reduce the pressure on the stems.
Why are my courgette flowers dropping off?
Erratic watering can lead to the flowers dropping off. It’s normal for male flowers (these don’t have a fruit behind them) to fall off. Female flowers do have a fruit behind them and don’t drop off.
why do courgettes crack?
Harvesting the fruit at the right size is essential if you don’t want watery courgettes – don’t let them get much longer than 7cm (3in) long. If they grow into marrows they can become bloated and crack. Erratic watering can also lead to cracked courgettes.
frequently asked questions
how many courgettes do you get per plant?
Courgette plants are very productive – if they’re well looked after, you can get around 4 courgettes from each plant each week.
how far apart should I plant courgettes?
Plant 90cm (3ft) apart in each direction.
how big is a courgette plant?
They reach around 90cm (3ft) tall and wide.
how do you cut courgettes from the plant?
Use a sharp knife to cut the courgette where the stem meets the plant.
how long do courgettes take to grow?
You should have fruit about 8 weeks from sowing.
can courgettes grow in pots?
Courgettes work well in containers, but ensure they are a minimum 45cm (18in) in diameter. Allow one plant per container or two per container. Courgettes grown in this way will need regular watering as they mature. A good compact variety for containers is ‘All Green Bush’.
can courgettes be grown vertically?
Courgette plants can be trained to grow over a structure. They are big and bushy, so if you’re short on space, you could also try growing something else that grows vertically, such as tomatoes or beans.