Marrows and pumpkins may often be insipid when large, but their tiny cousins, known as courgettes or zucchini provide a flavourful addition to a meal. The yellow flesh of butternut squash is even tastier. Best of all, ripened winter squash can be stored in a cool place for several months. Most families only need one or two plants to be self-sufficient in these prolific producers.
Soil and position
Space is needed to allow the stems of trailing varieties to rampage over soil. For best results cultivate a pocket of rich soil that has been improved with organic matter and some general purpose fertiliser such as Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own Vegetable & Fruit Plant Food. Position the pockets at least 90cm (3ft) apart so the plant stems have room to wander.
Alternatively you can grow three climbing courgette plants (Black Forest variety) in a Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own Vegetable & Fruit Giant Planter positioned on a sunny patio or balcony.
Seed and plant varieties
Study the seed racks and choose your preferred shape and colour whether green, yellow or white. Remember that courgettes will grow to marrow size if left unpicked.
Summer squash are either pumpkin types or ‘American Patty Pan’ types that are saucer flat with scalloped edges. Winter squash are usually bell-shaped butternut types that are picked in the autumn.
Sow one seed on its edge and about 2cm deep in a single 10cm (3in) pot of Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own Vegetable & Fruit Enriched Compost towards the end of March to April. Place the pot in a clear polythene bag and keep warm until the seed germinates 5 to 7 days later. Sometime in June, when all risks of frost are passed, harden off the seedlings outside and after a week or so to acclimatise to cooler nights, plant out one seedling to each pocket of improved soil. Alternatively, you can sow directly outside towards the end of May when the risk or hard-frost has passed. Water well.
To help the soil to retain moisture and for the fruits to remain clean lay some black polythene or a mulch layer of Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Natural Pine Bark around the plant stem. When the plant is actively growing, water the soil occasionally, adding some Miracle-Gro Gro Your Own Vegetable & Fruit Concentrated Liquid Plant Food to the water every fortnight. Pinch out the main stem when it has reached the maximum area you want to use.
Pick the fruit of marrows, courgettes and summer squash for immediate use when they are still quite small. Courgettes should be only 12cm to 16cm long, marrows 22cm to 28cm long. Continually cutting will ensure prolonged fruiting. Cut winter squash and pumpkins in the autumn just before the first frosts and ripen on a sunny windowsill indoors. The skin will thicken and turn colour.
Store marrows and winter squash in a cool, frost-free room. If correctly ripened, Butternut squash should store until Christmas, unless you’ve eaten them all!