I have a summer love affair with courgettes, zucchini, summer squash…whatever you call it where you live. My garden never feels right without them in the summer and I always regret how many I plant. It is a lesson I just never learn.
Well, it’s been worse this year than ever before.
After years of experiments I have hit upon a variety that ticks all the boxes for me. It is a variety called Romanesco from Seeds of Italy and in the UK you can find it here:
They are firm in texture and slightly ribbed. They do not go as “mushy” when cooked as many courgettes tend to do and my husband and other “don’t like courgettes” friends do like these. I pick at about 6 inches in length, slice into coin shapes, saute in a bit of olive oil and butter to which I have added a crushed and chopped clove of garlic and then add a good squeeze of this stuff:
Only cook until just al dente. Delicious as a starter. Anyway, I have side-tracked myself talking about food again. On to how to grow the things.
For years I have grown them in the garden and they always take up a huge amount of space. We are talking about a square meter each. The bottom leaves get dry and distorted, mildew, die back and eventually take the whole plant with them. A sad end to a glorious plant. This year I read about a new method. Well, new to me anyway.
What you see here are my three courgette plants. Each plant has two metal spikes with wine bottles on top coming up through the middle. The wine bottles are there to protect eyes- you may get a horrible black eye if you bent over and smacked one but it wouldn’t put your eye out like a stake would! Note the terracotta tiles under the right plant. I will come back to those.
Here is one of the plants in close up. I am treating them as you might do cordon tomatoes. What I have read is that the leaves below the fruit are not needed in any way and they can be cut off to preserve water, allow air and sun around the base of the plant which will dry off any water splash which is one of the things that creates the mildew often seen in these plants. You can see where I have cut off leaves and I do need to go back and trim them up a bit more. The plastic looking tubing used to tie some of the plant up is repurposed surgical tubing. This stuff is about 10 years old, stretchy, easy to cut and goes on and on. Supports the considerable weight of the plant as it grows without unduly digging into the stem. As the plant grows I tie them in moving up the stakes and cut the leaves off below the fruit, reducing the weight.
Here’s the top of one plant with “happy camper” courgettes. They are up in the light and air and just keep coming. And coming. And coming…
What I didn’t expect was this: by lifting the crown up and away, there is now so much light and air at the base that they are sending out new fruiting branches from the bottom. Good grief, Charlie Brown! We can have too much of a good thing. Next year I will try to limit myself to just two plants. Wish me luck with that one!
Now, about those tiles. They are left over from a roofing project that didn’t go to plan. Rather than just waste them, I stacked them up on a pallet behind the greenhouse and use them all around the veg patch. They are used as I am about to describe. The are also used to weight the edges of the nets I sling over hoops to protect vulnerable plant types from cabbage white butterflies. I am sure they will come in handy for years to come.
The soil here is sandy and stony but full of nutrients. I mound it up around the base of my plants to create a little basin to pour water into that will funnel down to the roots and not spread out all over the place, wasting water. The tiles and stones help to support the sides of the created basins and also hold moisture into the soil. I have not much action from slugs and snails here thanks to my resident Song Thrushes and consistent use of copper tools. For a reminder of why I use copper tools, see my post from the 12th February 2022:
The strings you see climbing up behind are the supports for cucumbers which have more room than it appears in the photo and are now climbing up the strings and full of blooms and small fruit.
So, how do you grow your courgettes? I love to hear from people so do leave me a comment or two?
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