Tips this week on successfully growing courgettes, by Martin Fish - Show director, Harrogate Flower Shows
This year many vegetable plants were slow to get started as a result of cool air and soil temperatures, but at last they are now making good growth.
One vegetable that is always popular is the courgette. Technically speaking, it’s actually a fruit, but we eat it as a vegetable. Courgettes need warmth to grow well and when grown in good conditions will produce lots of small tender fruits all through the summer. What they don’t like is cool, wet weather which has been a problem over the past few years. The secret of success when growing courgettes is to plant in a sunny position in fertile soil that has been improved with garden compost and an application of fertiliser – they are really quite greedy plants. By now, plants growing in the garden should be starting to produce fruits and it is important to keep the plants growing at all times as a check in growth as this stage will slow down fruit development. Once the plants start to produce courgettes start feeding once a week with a liquid fertiliser which will encourage not only leaf growth, but also flowers and fruit. Courgettes are generally pest free although slugs can be a problem while the plants are young and establishing, so keep an eye open for nibbles to the leaves. Aphids can also occasionally be a problem, but these are easily dealt with by simply squashing the small insects off with your fingers.
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On hot days damp down the path in the greenhouse with water. As the water evaporates it has a cooling effect.
Cucumbers grow fast at this time of the year and the new growth needs tying to a support every few days to prevent the plant taking over the greenhouse.
To keep pelargoniums flowering all summer long remove dead flower heads on a regular basis and feed with a high potash liquid fertiliser.
Anne Blackburn from Boston Spa has grown sweet Williams this year as cut flowers and she would like to now how long the plants will grow for.
Sweet William is a lovely cottage garden plant and they make really good cut flowers because they last a long time in a vase. Years ago everyone grew them but they don’t seem as popular these days which is a shame, especially when you consider how easy they are to grow. I have also grown some this year and we are now cutting them for the house. Related to pinks and carnations, Dianthus barbatus (sweet William) is a short-lived perennial, but it is usually grown as a biennial, which basically means you sow fresh seed each year at this time of the year to produce plants that will flower next June. However, as it is a perennial the plants very often carry on growing and flower for a second or even third year. To try and keep your existing plants growing for next year, make sure you remove any faded flowers before seed is produced as this weakens the plant. After flowering trim old flower stalks down and water and feed to encourage fresh new growth, which will overwinter and flower again next year.
If you have gardening question for Martin Fish please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll print a selection of questions and answers for readers to share. Or, write to Ackrill Media Group, 1 Cardale Park, Harrogate and we’ll pass on your question.