Yesterday's courgette harvest

A small harvest a few days ago

Every time I go into the garden there are more courgettes (zucchini) – clearly a run-away success this year. I’ve generally been weighing them when I bring them into the kitchen, and so far I’ve picked well over 7kg (15lbs) of them… not bad for mid-July, eh? Currently there are seven decent-sized specimens in the fridge, a pot of courgette soup on the stove (simple recipe: courgettes, curry powder, homemade stock, cook together, then stir in some creme fraiche and season to taste) and lots growing on the plants in the garden. Last night we did have a meal that did not include courgettes (new potatoes, lettuce, boiled eggs and homemade mayonnaise: all out of the garden except the oil in the latter), but we did have courgette soup for lunch!

However, not everyone is having my success this year, and I have been asked by a couple of people what might be going wrong. I can’t say for sure, but I can tell you what works for me.

Courgette plants in the compost bed

Courgette plants in the compost bed

I always grow my courgettes in lots of compost; in fact, the bed that I use for most of them doesn’t have soil in it – it’s an in situ composting system to which I add grass clippings, leaves, cardboard, shredded paper, compost, chicken bedding and anything else I can think of every year. I have grown courgettes and squash in it for the past four years and the lack of rotation seems to have had no adverse effects. I think I add so much extra material each year that, effectively, there is always new substrate. In the winter I let the chickens onto this bed to give it a good turning and to further increase fertility. When I do plant courgettes into beds with soil, I always add lots of extra compost and water sometimes with some sort of nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer (worm wee, for example).

Making use of lots of compost has two benefits: first, you are supplying plenty of nutrients and second, organic matter holds large amounts of water. Courgette plants are both hungry and thirsty! According to the University of Kentucky, a courgette is 95% water! So that means for every 1kg (2.2lbs) of courgette that you harvest, you need to supply 950ml (33 fluid ounces) of water. In contrast, a potato contains a mere 79% water. I, however, do not like to have to spend too much of my time watering plants, and all that organic matter saves me having to do so. I do give them a drink very occasionally, but even in June when we got a total of 58mm (just over 2 inches), I only watered them about once a week, despite the very sunny, warm weather. So far this month, I haven’t watered them at all, apart from giving the ones in the soil some liquid feed once. In drier climates, watering is likely to be required, but using lots of organic matter will certainly reduce the amount you need to apply.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with some images of the abundance… clearly the organic matter approach is working here:

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  1. The one time my first hubby and I had a garden, we had so much zucchini we couldn’t give it away. Probably because all of our neighbors had it too. I got very creative with cooking it. zucchini bread, zucchini lasagna, zucchini slaw. shredded it in meatloaf… You name it, I made it. We were swimming in the stuff, and we still had to throw a bunch of it away because it rots so quickly.

    Who knew that it grew so well in Central California??? Not us, that’s who.

    • I think that they must like the sunshine!
      I’m always surprised how quickly I get fed up with a glut, but we have a big freezer, so nothing goes to waste!

  2. I love courgettes!

  3. Wow, yours are well ahead of mine. I have lovely big healthy plants, but the actual courgettes are only about 4 inches long so far. So dinner will be a while…

  4. They look very healthy specimens! Isn’t it funny how you are so happy with those first few kgs of something and before long you are frowning under the weight of them lol, it’s good they freeze so well.

  5. Looks like the weather and your skills are certainly paying dividends this year.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

  6. I was afraid of having too many, and only have two plants. It seems to be working well, since we can cope with one or two zucchini at a time. I’m amazed at the amount of biomass they put out – some of the leaves on mine are 35cm across, but then I am giving them an extremely nutrient rich environment and lots of protection from marauding insects. Do try the oven dried chips with a sprinkle of Parmesan…

    • Will get some Parmesan this weekend, or at least I will if they sell such things in Lampeter!
      Two plants would have been enough, but all the seeds germinated and I planted what I had after giving a few away. Shouldn’t grumble, lovely fresh food!

  7. The Courgettes look amazing, Jan! 🙂
    I can’t wait for next year now, when we have our own beds to plant in – we’ve always loved the abundant courgette plant! 🙂

  8. Your courgettes are amazing! You certainly have the winning formula. Thank you for sharing your secrets for successful growing.

    • And I’ve just picked another kilo and a half… so I think I shall pop round and deliver some to Katy the Night Owl, who I’m sure will make good use of them!

  9. I had HUGE problems with my zukes last season. The green ones got blossom end rot (calcium problem in the “soil” imported compost I used) and the yellow ones got covered up by the pumpkins that I planted into compost and that went INSANE and took over the equivalent of a tennis court. I couldn’t find the yellow zukes till they turned well and truly into marrows and made their golden countenances apparent. I still gave them away to friends who were happy to have them. This year I will take your excellent advice and will plant the zukes in the compost and the pumpkins can have the horse poo pile 😉

    • I have visions of you hacking your way through the pumpkin patch with a machete, possibly wearing a pith helmet and accompanied by the intrepid Earl!

      • You are too late. I already hacked and the intrepid Earl abandoned me to my fate as he smelled something interesting and ran away to dig 😉


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