For a little fella, the courgette – or zucchini – from the squash family is a bit of a hog with the amount of space it demands in the veggie plot.
It’s a trailing plant, spreading outwards rather than upwards, but is highly productive and often produces a glut all at once – so unless you want to feed the neighbourhood, two plants should suffice.
Courgette plants can be brought from garden centres but only plant out when frost danger passes.
The same rule applies to sowing seed both indoors or outdoors. With the right conditions, courgettes germinate quickly and going from dirt to dish can take only a couple of months.
If you have enough room, space the plants around 120cm apart. Otherwise check the spread of tailing plants by pinning down the growth in a circle.
My great-uncle used to create a mound on which he sowed the seed before creating a circular moat around the mound to retain moisture.
Courgettes are thirsty plants and should never be allowed to dry out in summer when fruits are developing. Avoid wetting leaves as this may encourage powdery mildew to form.
The tastiest courgettes are picked when young and thin and about 10-15cm long.
Slice them off with a sharp kitchen knife. Never try twisting them off as this can damage the plant.
Fruit left on the plant will grow at a surprising rate, becoming watery and losing flavour. These larger plants – which should be harvested at about 20-25cm long – are often referred to as marrows.
Courgettes can be kept fresh in the fridge for a few days but don’t store that well.
A bonus in the kitchen are courgette flowers. They are a delicacy and need to be picked just as they’re opening.
Jacqui Stubbs is a landscape designer with Remarkable Gardens Ltd.
email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: www.remarkablegardens.co.nz