The courgette is a great plant for a small garden because you can eat the fruit, the flowers and the young leaves.
Depending on the weather courgette and their cousins cucumbers can be planted out now. Despite the iffy summers we have been having I seem to have managed to have coaxed something of a crop each year.
I planted seeds in a cool growhouse in April and pot on the strongest fellows about a month later. If the weather is bad I might re-pot again into a larger pot before planting out.
At the same time as I do the first potting on, I prepare the planting bed, by burying decomposing kitchen waste and forming a mound of the best and most fertile soil I have. I leave this to rot down, which in late spring, given heat and rain will take about four weeks. It doesn't matter if, when you plant out, the waste is still an icky mess. Curcurbits (members of the courgette/cucumber/marrow family) love to put their roots down into a rich, moist compost.
Once the plants take hold they will push out many leaves, and you begin to despair of finding flowers. But rest assured, flowers you will get and as long as there are bees to buzz they will be fertilised. Courgette bears both male and female flowers on the same plant. Once the process gets going you can pick off the fertilised flowers to cook, leaving the male flowers to do their job and the mini courgettes to go on growing. At this immature stage a few leaves can also be harvested to ensure a good throw of sunlight onto the fruit. Don't be put off by the hairiness of the leaves, this melts away in the pan and you are left with a delicate leaf, reminiscent of spinach.
Inevitably I will want to go on holiday sometime over the summer. I have an automatic watering system which will stop everything drying up, but if I fail to crop any of the courgettes by the time I get back they will have turned into marrows. There is nothing better than roast marrow and parsley sauce on a cool autumn evening.
IN recent years, I grew green and yellow varieties, Canary and Zucchini. Last year I experimenting with Courgette de Nice, (Caillard) which is supposed to be a rampant climber (no sign of it yet) and Zucchini (DTBrown) again, which are romping away, but which will not climb. The de Nice variety have smaller round pale green mottled fruits, while Zucchini sports bog standard green fingers. This year I'm trying Tromboncino which are in fact squash, not true courgette, but which should climb.
Of all the varieties Zuccini seems to be the most robust. The Courgette de Nice started off well, but the very hot summer checked them and by September they had stopped flowering. Though when they did crop, the little round courgettes were delicious and very quick to reach maturity. They never got to climb my wigwam. Next year I will try an English climbing variety like Black Forest (Thompson and Morgan) or Zephyr, with bi-coloured fruit, and which I have spotted climbing up trellises in Guy de Maupassant’s garden in Normandy. But these are both F1 hybrid’s so it is rather against my religion to choose them!