Growing courgettes in pots

Courgette so one of the most popular vegetables to grow at home in your own garden because they are prolific vegetables, produce massive harvests and can be used in a wide range of dishes. In this article we shall be looking at how to grow courgettes in pots if you live in apartment or house with very limited space for garden. 

Selecting a container

As courgettes are relatively large plants that can spread up to a metre we recommend using a large pot with good drainage to ensure that the plant has plenty of space to spread out. Ideally pots should be at least 20 inches in wide and even more possibly.

In terms of depth it is ideal to have at least 30cm again as plant as the not will not dry out as readily if the containers are larger in size which makes them easy to look after.

In terms of drainage, in places like the UK is important to elevate the base of the container to ensure that the water is easily able to drain. In addition to this if you are in a particularly wet environment is it advisable to place a drainage layer in the bottom of the pot which can consist of builders rubble or parts of old pots. This layer can then be covered with material to keep it separated from the soil to maintain the drainage.

Planting seeds

Courgettes part of the curcurbit family which contains plants that are frost sensitive and therefore need to be grown in a relatively warm environment. As a result of this the planting of seeds is generally recommended to be in spring after there is no longer any risk of frost.

However, if you do want to get your plants going quickly we would highly recommend that you plant into a seed tray and place it in an indoor space that is warm and protected as this will help to produce an earlier harvest.

When planting directly into seed trays it is recommended that you use a specific seed raising mix as it has excellent drainage and is ideally suited for this purpose. When planting the courgette seeds into the seed tray it is important to ensure that the soil is firmed down as this will help it formed plugs that make the plant easier to transplant later on.

See also  Container Potatoes.

Typically, we recommend planting only one or two seeds per modular cell at a depth of approximately 1 inch as the seeds are relatively large. If more than one seed germinates in a single cell select strongest plant to grow on and remove the rest of the seedlings.

In terms of the number of plants only a few Courgettes will be required because they are so prolific. We recommend planting a maximum of 1 plant per person in your household. (I personally usually plant 3 in my garden for a family of 5) One plant can produce a lot of courgettes.

Once the courgette seeds are planted they will take only a week to 10 days to appear and the seedlings will develop relatively quickly reaching height of between 4 and 6 inches within around 6 weeks. At this point in time the plants will be ready to plant out into the garden.

Transplanting seedlings into a pot

Once the seedlings are sufficiently large in size they can be planted out in the garden, but only if the weather is sufficiently warm and the there is no chance of frost. If the weather is still not suitable to plant out it may be necessary to pot on the seedling to ensure that they continue to develop while waiting for conditions to improve.

When transplanting a seedling into a pot plant only one seedling per container due to the size of the plant. In terms of the growing medium that is placed in the pot we recommend adding a particularly rich soil as courgettes are rapidly growing fruiting plants, that need a lot of nutrition to perform at the very best. For this job, compost is considered the best option.

When the soil is in place the seedling should be planted in the centre of the pot at a level equal to the level it was grown in the seed tray. Once the seedling is in position the next important step is to ensure that you water the plant in well and then apply snail bait around it to protect it from attack from slugs and snails.

In addition to this it is worth mulching the plants with straw to help retain the moisture and suppress any weeds that may appear.

See also  Intercropping and Catch Cropping.

If the container is being placed outside in cooler climates such as a UK we recommend placing a cloche over the plant for the first few weeks as this will help the plant to become established by increasing the temperature around the plant and therefore its growth rate.

Caring for courgette plants during the growing season 

Caring for courgettes is a relatively straightforward process, particularly once the plants have become established and are less susceptible to attack from slugs and snails. The main consideration is ensuring that the plants receive consistent watering every couple of days when there has been no rain.

To maximise the yield it is recommended that courgette flowers be hand pollinated as this will make 100% certain that you get a lot of fruit on the plant. This can be done by snapping off a male flower which is typically supported by a relatively narrow stem that will not have any fruit sitting behind it. The flower picked up can be rubbed against all of the female flowers on the plant.

If pollination does not occur the plants will stop supporting the growth of that particular fruit and it will die-back which means that you will get no harvest.

The other key consideration associated with growing courgettes is the issues with powdery mildew which is a disease that appears in midble of the growing season. Powdery mildew appears as a white powdery film on the surface of the leaves, which can, in extreme cases, reduce the amount of fruit produced because it reduces the degree of photosynthesis occuring and therefore the growth.

There is no specific cure which will 100% get rid of powdery mildew, however, if you want to reduce its effects you can apply a milk solution.  

To maximise the effectiveness of any treatment it is best to spray 50/50 solution of milk and water onto the plants in early summer on a weekly basis when the plant is still relatively small.  This will act as a preventative measure reducing the degree of powdery mildew observed but it will not stop the problem completely.

Harvesting courgettes

Due to their heat loving nature courgettes are often plants that are slow to get going, usually taking until midsummer to begin to produce its first fruit. However, once the plants get going then the volume of fruit that will be produced is quite substantial. 

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As a result of this, it is important to make sure that you monitor the plants consistently once fruit appears for the first time. This is because courgettes are renowned for increasing in size rapidly when the weather is warm and they have sufficient water. If left unchecked courgettes will grow to over a foot long.  

However, at this point they are a little value for eating because the seeds inside the fruit and the skin become relatively tough and inedible. So it is important to pick courgettes when they are relatively small, typically, when they are slightly larger that the size of a large carrot is ideal.

If you do end up with an excessively large fruit and it is best to allow it to fully develop and then pick it. It can be used to collect all the seeds that you require for the following year. However, it is important to note that this can only be done with open pollinated varieties as hybrids (seeds with F1 in their name) will produce unpredictable results.

The harvest of courgette can continue into autumn provided that the fruit is picked consistently. Once the weather starts to cool down the plant will die back and needs to be removed from the garden. 

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