An expert's guide to growing courgettes

how to grow courgettes
The best way to grow courgettes at homeGetty Images

Courgettes are a dinner staple. Perfect for roasting and steaming, they provide an abundance of fruit for the family and are super easy to grow.

“They’re a brilliant plant for beginners, as long as you get the timing right,” says Kate Turner, Gardening-Guru at Miracle-Gro. “They’re tender plants, so they don’t like the cold, so you must wait for the frost to finish. It’s all about checking outside and just being patient when it comes to growing courgettes.”

Fancy giving it a go? Here’s everything you need to know about growing courgettes.

How to grow courgettes: the best varieties

There are lots of different varieties of courgettes, but a few things to consider when choosing which type you’d like to grow is how big you’d like your courgette to be, its colour and the amount of space you have in your garden.

For beginners, Kate recommends a variety called “defender."

“These are your classic long green courgettes that produce a good reliable crop, but they’re also disease resistant to something called powdery mildew and pollinate themselves," explains Kate. "You don’t have to worry about the weather or if you’ve got enough bees coming into your garden.”

If you fancy growing something a little more unique, Kate advises to opt for a courgette variety called “one ball,” one of her favourites.

“This is a round yellow courgette and it looks fantastic. You grow it in exactly the same way, it tastes exactly the same and you can roast them in the oven whole. They look really pretty and are just as easy to grow as a normal courgette.”

Not got a lot of outdoor space and planning to grow your courgettes in containers? Make sure you pick a variety that grows well in this environment, like “Black Forest,” says Kate.

“This has got really nice dark green fruit and it's a climber too, so you can put a little frame up for it and it will grow up rather than out.”

“Don't be tempted to sow loads of seeds, because you will have too many courgettes. Ideally, you want two or three plants, so sow six seeds and then be quite harsh and only keep two or three seedlings as they grow. Otherwise you will be inundated!”

Where to grow courgettes

Courgettes can grow almost anywhere, in a pot or the ground. The most important thing is that they’re somewhere that gets a lot of sun, as they don’t do well in shade and need around six hours of sunlight.

“Sow your courgettes indoors from April and make sure you sow the seed on its side rather than flat,” says Kate. “This is because when you come to water it, sometimes the water can get stuck on the seed and rot, so sowing it on its side will stop this from happening.

“If you sow courgettes straight from seed outside you need to wait until the end of May, when the frost has gone,” says Kate.

Once your plant begins to sprout, transfer it to either a bigger pot or outdoors.

“Growing them in the ground is brilliant but if you can’t, grow them in a big container with a diameter no smaller than 60 centimetres,” says Kate. “The nice thing about containers is that you can move them around to where it’s sunny in your garden, just remember to keep up with the watering though,” she adds.

How to grow courgettes: care advice

Courgettes are “hungry plants,” they require a good peat free multipurpose compost, fresh soil and plenty of water.

“Once you've got them outside and they're producing all their leaves I would recommend giving them a really good drench in the morning with a big watering can,” says Kate.

“Don't let them dry out and then give them a really big water, then forget again for a week, because they don't like that. Courgettes like to be kept moist all the time otherwise they will sulk, be more likely to get powdery mildew, and you won't get the fruit as they need the water in order to produce this.”

“Don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need to water your plant because it’s been raining. Courgettes have big leaves that act as umbrellas. Stick your finger in the soil underneath them and if it’s dry, they need watering.”

Once your courgettes start to flower Kate suggests to give them a feed with a tomato fertiliser, like Tomorite, as it’s high in potassium which is the key nutrient for growing fruits.

Add a capsule straight into your watering can, once a week and it will help with the fruiting.

Disease and pest control

The main problem to be aware with when growing courgettes is powdery mildew, a white powdery deposit found on the leaf.

One way to avoid this is making sure you water your courgettes correctly. “A lot of people will water the whole plant, but with courgettes you just want to water at the base and you want to try really hard not to get the leaves wet, as this will encourage powdery mildew,” says Kate. “It doesn't stop the yield, but it just doesn't look very pretty.”

how to grow courgettes
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“What can sometimes happen quite early on with courgettes though is they get this white marbling and people can think it’s powdery mildew or something called mosaic virus, which is very rare,” explains Kate.

If your courgette does catch this disease don’t panic, just cut the leaves off and keep up with your watering.

“Avoid planting your courgettes too closely together to help avoid diseases. Plants need air to circulate around them, so if you've got three plants too close together with their leaves brushing up the air can't get around them properly, which encourages fungal disease.”

How to harvest your courgettes

You can expect to see your courgettes 12 weeks after you’ve planted them. The more you pick them, the more they will grow.

Use a good pair of secateurs to cut your courgettes, don’t just pull them as you may damage the stem. You may also want to wear a pair of gardening gloves too, as the underside of the leaves and stem can be prickly.

Although it can be tempting, Kate recommends to not let your courgettes grow too big, as this can affect the taste.

“The smaller they are, the sweeter they are, so ideally you don't want to let them get much bigger than 10 centimetres. They can easily become the size of marrows if you don't watch out!”

Here are our favourite courgette recipes:

These recipes taste even better with home grown courgettes.

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