Growing courgettes – my ‘aha!’ moment…

September 18th, 2016 Posted In: Grow-your-own

I watered my growing courgettes, along with the rest of the garden, before going to Spain for four days. I was really surprised by the courgettes when I got back.

Organic restaurant on the beach in Spain

This beach side restaurant at Tossa del Mar, Spain, had an organic veg garden on the beach. You could see the waitresses picking herbs and chillies when the chef needed them. But back to growing courgettes…

While we were away, England had an unexpected heatwave. I hadn’t asked anyone to water the garden.

When I came back, one courgette was mildewed but growing extra leaves. It had two fat courgettes.

Courgette after being fed with Baby Bio

I shall nick-name this Fatty Courgette. It has had four days of hot sun without water.

The other had dwindled to just a few stalks.

Courgette without extra fertiliser feed

Next to Fatty Courgette is Stalky Courgette. It also had four hot days in the sun.

They were side-by-side and had the same amount of water. They grew in exactly the same conditions. So what was different about Fatty Courgette? Why did it flourish while Stalky Courgette died?

The answer goes back to sponsored posts I did earlier in the year for Baby Bio Outdoor liquid feed. They asked me to write about feeding plants with fertilisers. I looked up various research findings and it seemed clear that feeding ‘hungry’ plants, such as vegetables, does mean more produce.

It also seemed that feeding plants helps them withstand drought and disease. There was plenty of back-up to confirm that the claims were true, but I was slightly doubtful.

Grow-your-own courgette growing tips

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I had always thought that you should ‘feed the soil not feed the plant.’ That, too, is absolutely true. Everything I have come across online or talking to gardening experts is clear. The number one favour you can do your garden is to look after your soil. Add a good layer of compost and/or manure at least once a year. It is the starting point for a good garden.

However, I’ve always done that. I spread the entire annual contents of my home-made compost over my four raised beds every year. I also add manure. Yet my vegetable harvests were often disappointing.

Home-made compost

My home-made compost before rotting down. Good compost is essential to a healthy garden.

One reason was that I wasn’t planning and harvesting the veg properly. See more on planning your veg garden here and harvesting veg for maximum yields here.

But both Stalky Courgette and Fatty Courgette have had the same treatment, except for one difference.

Baby Bio also asked me to do their Big Boost Challenge. I grew two identical plants, then fed one with Baby Bio Outdoor liquid feed. I didn’t feed the other. I’ve been comparing their progress over the summer. Included in the trial were courgettes, chillies, beans, mangetout, tomatoes and potted patio roses. I chose container plants and vegetables, because these are the plants most likely to need extra nutrients.

Note: There are Amazon affiliate links in this post, which means you can click through to buy. If you do, I may get a small fee but it won’t affect the price you pay.

Fatty Courgette and Stalky Courgette were part of the trial. Here they are when they were planted.

Two almost identical courgettes planted out in May. One was to be fed with Baby Bio and the other would not be fed.

Two almost identical courgettes (‘Romanesco’) planted out in May. One was to be fed with Baby Bio and the other would not be fed.

The courgette fed with Baby Bio Outdoor liquid feed soon turned into Fatty Courgette. It has given me a total of 39 courgettes over the summer. The other ultimately became Stalky Courgette. Initially, it was healthy, but smaller. Stalky Courgette had a yield of 24 courgettes.

Tips for growing courgettes

The first courgette of the season came from Fatty Courgette. Stalky Courgette was two weeks behind.

As the summer got hotter, I could also see that Stalky Courgette was suffering more from mildewed leaves. Fatty Courgette had mildew too, but remained more vigorous.

It was the four-day heatwave that really showed the difference between feeding ‘hungry’ vegetables and not feeding them. I was astonished to see how two courgette plants, growing side-by-side, had fared in such a short time.

How much does fertilising your home-grown veg cost?

Although Baby Bio sent me Baby Bio Outdoor Fruit & Vegetable liquid feed, it would have cost around £5 a bottle, depending on where you buy it. That’s enough concentrate for 75 litres of liquid feed. I used about two bottles over the summer on two courgette plants, two tomato plants, four runner bean plants, a potted chili, some mangeout and some other miscellaneous plants that weren’t part of the trial.

The rest of the trial had similar results – around a 30% increase in yields.

I am now convinced. I will be feeding my veggies as well as my soil from now on.

Quick and easy courgette salad

My favourite courgette salad. It’s quick and easy, and it works with overgrown courgettes.

PS: The last two courgettes were too big to cook, so I did my favourite salad. It’s perfect for overgrown courgettes. Slice your courgette with a potato peeler, stopping just before you reach the seeds. Dress the ribbons with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and one of good quality vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Then sprinkle with fresh or dried chillies. Delicious!

6 comments on "Growing courgettes – my ‘aha!’ moment…"

  1. Steve says:

    Thanks for another helpful post, there’s a related post from Catherine of Growing Family at which seems to confirm your results. I’ve been using homemade compost on the vegetable beds and fertilising with nettle and comfrey tea as appropriate with good results.

    1. I think homemade fertilisers are great, I’m just really not good at organising them. Because we live close to the sea, I brought some seaweed home once, and let it stew in a bucket, but before I could use it, another family member (to be nameless) came along and thought ‘what’s this?’ and chucked it out. So sad!

  2. Have you tried making your own nettle and comfrey feeds? The nettle feed will be high in nitrogen, so very good for the early stages of plant growth as it will encourage the production of leaves and stems. Comfrey feed is higher in potassium, so will give plans a boost at flowering and fruiting time. Jim on Beechgrove Garden trialled comfrey feed versus commercial fertilisers a couple of series ago and concluded that it was more effective, so I think they use it as standard now and I’ve seen Monty using comfrey feed on GW before now.

    1. I’ve been thinking of trying nettle feed but don’t want to accidentally introduce weedkillers (I think my local nettle bank gets sprayed regularly) and I don’t have the space to grow comfrey. I did try to make a seaweed fertiliser once as I live close to the coast, but Mr Middlesize found the bucket, assumed it wasn’t anything important and threw it away (it had been ‘brewing’ for 10 days). But I will keep an eye on it all…

  3. Karen says:

    Really interesting post! I’ve started using Baby Bio for my indoor plants! I actually use a seaweed fertiliser for outdoors, so might do a mini trial of which is better! My courgettes haven’t been amazing this year yeild wise and I can’t figure out why, maybe that’s the answer.

    1. A mini trial would be a great idea. You might also check what kind of courgettes you’re planting – I find ‘Romanesco’ very reliable and prolific, but some of the others seem to dwindle to mush.

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