Yesterday, I harvested the remainder of our Jersey Benne potatoes (see picture), which I have been bandicooting over the past week. Meanwhile, Sanna, our wwoofer, pulled out our broad beans which have finished cropping. Today, we are going to prepare the area with compost and plant pumpkins, which I will write more about in my next post.
In Wednesday’s post, you might recall me saying that I had started planting zucchini in the garden. Zucchini is very easy to grow and plants can be very productive – almost too much so. Most gardeners can relate to having a glut in summer. We make a number of delicious dishes from our produce, including frittata and parmigiana.
Zucchini is very easy to grow from seed. It’s not too late to get plants started if you haven’t already done so. This year, I’m growing the following varieties: Solar Flare (Egmont), Zephyr (Kings Seeds), Black Jack (Yates), Nero di Milano (Franchi), Fiorentino (Franchi), Partenon (Egmont) and Amanda (Egmont). All I do is sow seeds in egg cartons (I prefer using the lid rather than the part for the eggs) filled with some seed raising mix and leave them on my heat pad to germinate. The warmth aids germination and provides a consistent temperature, especially at night when it becomes cooler. If you don’t have a heat pad, try using your hot water cupboard. Once plants have germinated (at this stage they usually only have two leaves), I prick them out carefully and transplant them individually into 10 cm pots, before moving them into the greenhouse. Once plants have developed three leaves, I start hardening them off, moving them outdoors for a few hours before bringing them back undercover at night. After about a week or two, they are ready to stay outside before being planted into the garden.
Here are some of my top growing tips:
· You can get so many different types of zucchini. Try growing at least two different varieties, even if you have a smaller garden. I really love Solar Flare (Egmont), an extremely prolific yellow variety
· Stagger seed sowing to ensure a continuous supply of zucchini all summer. I sowed my first lot on 11th September and second lot on 4th October. I’ll sow another round very shortly, with more to follow in November (just don’t ask where I’m going to put them!)
· Zucchini is frost sensitive, so don’t put plants in too early. From Labour Weekend onwards is generally fine
· Plant zucchini in an area with full sun
· Zucchini are gross feeders like all cucurbits, so work in lots of compost, sheep pellets and fertiliser prior to planting
· Water plants well, avoiding the leaves as this can cause mildew (more on this later)
· Mulch plants to conserve moisture and add nutrients to the soil. I like putting some pea straw around my zucchini plants
· To promote lots of healthy leaves and fruiting, liquid feed plants weekly. This summer, I’m going to use my Yates Thrive Tomato Liquid Plant Food on my zucchini, which is suitable for all fruiting crops
· Zucchini generally need to be pollinated in order to form fruit. However, it is possible to find some varieties such as Partenon F1 (Egmont), which are parthenocarpic (self-pollinating). I had great success with this variety last summer
· Mildew can be a problem. It’s possible to spray plants, but I don’t usually bother as by that time they’ve usually been quite productive. I simply pull the zucchini out and replace it with another plant
· Pick zucchini regularly to encourage further fruiting (and to prevent them from turning into marrows!)
I’ve never grown zucchini in containers before, but have heard it is possible. Has anyone tried this? How large was the pot? Was it successful?