Courgette Nero di Milano
Courgettes need a bit of careful treatment to start them off. You need to sow them indoors to protect them from spring frosts. But once the warmer weather arrives and you plant them out in your plot you'll see them transform into huge jungly plants that will produce massive amount of fruit - upwards of 20 courgettes per plant.
One of the biggest problems people have with courgettes is growing too many! A couple of plants are more than enough for most households.
Time from seed to plate: 12 weeks
Our propagator kits with 'Jiffy 7' compost pellets are ideal for sowing. Four jiffys should be enough. Soak the pellets in water till they expand and push a seed into each one so they're just covered with compost. Put them in the propagator, cover, and place on a warm and bright windowsill inside. Keep moist.
Within one or two weeks the seeds should sprout. Remove the propagator lid at this stage.
After a month or so the roots will have filled the jiffy and it's time to either plant out, or transfer the plants to the '3 inch' pots included in the kit to give them more growing room if it's still cold outside. Remove the jiffy bag encasing the compost, and plant firmly in the 3 inch pot filled with compost. Use the propagator lid as a watering tray.
Growing method: Seed propagating kits
Once the seedlings are about 6in tall, it's time to plant them out in your plot. Pick the healthiest-looking pair and plant them about 2ft apart, following the spacing plan on the right. Choose a sunny spot and ensure the ground has plenty of compost/manure dug in. They love it rich and moist. Sprinkle round some organic slug killer to give them protection until they're established.
Your plants will soon produce flowers - both male and female. Don't be disappointed when the males produce no fruit, because only the females do this.
Try and keep them moist - especially when fruiting - because this improves the flavour. A little extra compost around the base of each plant can help with this.
Your courgettes will probably develop a little mildew on their leaves by September. This is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. The plants will go on producing courgettes regardless, and they're just as good to eat.
Try and pick courgettes when they're 4-6in long. Any longer and they become fibrous and the flavour deteriorates.
Once the plants start producing, you'll find new courgettes come thick and fast. So be ready to pick about twice a week, especially if the weather's been wet.
Pick courgettes with a sharp knife to avoid damaging the plant. Pick some flowers too. Tear up the petals to sprinkle over salads, or keep them whole and stuff them.