squashes and pumpkins all belong to the gourd
section of the cucumber family – fleshy-fruited
vegetables which can be grown outdoors. There
are no exact definitions for each type and the
dividing lines are blurred. Until recently the
vegetable marrow – large, oblong and striped,
was the dominant member. Overgrown when picked
and insipid when cooked, they are still widely
used as a boiled vegetable or an edible casing
for minced beef or other stuffing. Where space
is limited, grow a bush rather than a trailing
variety. Courgettes have begun to take over, and
these are nothing more than marrows cut at the
immature stage – the flesh is firmer and
the taste superior. Squashes come in a variety
of shapes, colours and flavours – excellent
alternatives to the ordinary marrow but unpopular
in Britain. Pumpkins are the giants – grown
in Britain mainly to win prizes but cultivated
for other uses in America.
Soak seed overnight before sowing.
Expected germination time: 5-8 days
Expected yield per plant (Marrows): 4 marrows
Expected yield per plant (Courgettes): 16 courgettes
Life expectancy of stored seed: 6 years.
Approximate time between sowing and cutting: 10-14
Ease of cultivation: Not difficult, if you remember
to prepare the soil properly and water regularly.
· A sunny spot protected from strong winds
is essential – marrows, squashes etc. are
neither hardy nor long suffering.
· The soil must be well drained and rich
in humus. Most households will need only a few
plants, so prepare a few planting pockets as shown
below rather than sowing long rows.
Sowing and Planting
· Dig holes12in (30cm) deep and wide and
48in (120cm) apart for trailing varieties (24in
(60cm) apart for bush varieties). Fill the holes
with a mixture of compost as rotted manure and
soil. Leave a low mound at the top. Sprinkle fertilizer
over the surface, and scatter Slug Pellets between
· Sow 3 seeds 1in (2.5cm) deep and a few
inches apart at the centre of each pocket. Cover
with a large jar or cloche to hasten germination.
When the first true leaves have appeared thin
out to leave the strongest seedling.
· Alternatively you can raise the seedlings
indoors, but this method is often less satisfactory.
Place a single seed edgeways ½ in (1cm)
deep in seed compost in a 3in (7cm) peat pot.
Keep at a minimum of 65 °F (18°C) until
germination – gradually harden off seedlings
before planting in pockets outdoors.
· Sow outdoors in late May or early June.
In the Midlands and northern areas cover the seedlings
with cloches if you can for a few weeks. The first
courgettes will be ready in July.
· For an earlier crop sow seeds under glass
in late April. Plant out the seedlings in early
June when the danger of frost has passed.
· Cutting time is usually from mid July
to mid October; sometimes to the end of October.
Looking after the crop
· Pinch out the tips of the main shoots
of trailing varieties when they reach 2ft (60cm)
long. Renew Slug Pellets at the first signs of
· Keep the soil moist – water copiously
around the plants, not over them. Syringe lightly
in dry weather.
· Place black polythene or a mulch around
the plants in summer before fruit formation.
· If the weather is cold or it is early
in the season, fertilize female flowers (tiny
marrow behind petals) with a male flower (thin
stalk behind petals). Remove a mature male flower
on a dry day, fold back petals and push gently
into a female flower.
· Once the fruits start to swell feed every
14 days with Instant Bio or a tomato fertilizer.
Limit pumpkins to 2 fruits per plant. Keep marrows
on a piece of tile or glass to prevent rotting
and slug attack.
· Remove the fruits for immediate use when
they are still quite small – courgettes
4in (10cm), marrows 8-10in (20-25cm) long. Push
your thumbnail into the surface near the stalk
– if it goes in quite easily then the marrow
is at the right stage for summer picking. Continual
cropping is essential to prolong fruiting. Take
care – cut marrows where they lie, then
lift them away.
· For pumpkins, winter squashes and marrows
for winter storage, allow the fruits to mature
on the plants and remove before frosts. Store
in a cool room indoors – they should keep
These varieties include all the traditional vegetable
marrow shapes which are used for summer cooking
and winter storage.
Long Green Trailing: Large and cylindrical with
pale stripes. This is the one to grow to impress
the neighbours or win prizes at the show.
Long White Trailing: Another very long marrow,
pale-skinned with excellent storage properties.
Green Bush: Perhaps the best all-rounder –
you can cut the small fruits as courgettes and
let a few mature in late summer to produce striped
Early Gem: One of the F1 hybrid marrows which
are now available. Early Gem, Zebra Cross, Emerald
Cross and Clarita are claimed to be earlier and
more prolific than standard varieties.
These varieties are compact bush marrows which
are grown exclusively for their immature fruits.
They produce many small fruits over a long period
provided you keep cutting them.
Zucchini: The most popular courgette variety –
dark green fruits are produced in profusion. Serve
raw in salad or cooked as a hot vegetable.
Golden Zucchini: Until recently the standard yellow
courgette. The creamy flesh has a good flavour.
Gold Rush: This yellow variety has replaced Golden
Zucchini in some of the major catalogues because
it is earlier cropping.
Aristocrat: One of the newer F1 hybrid green courgettes
– others are Diamond and Onyx. Their claim
to fame is earliness plus high productivity.
The summer squashes are non-standard shaped marrows
with soft skins and pale, soft flesh. The winter
squashes have a hard rind and fibrous, orange
Custard Marrow (summer): This is the Patty Pan
Squash of America – scalloped-edges, flat
fruits which should be fried or boiled like courgettes.
Both white and yellow varieties are available.
Scallopini (summer): Ball-shaped and scalloped-edged,
these green fruits should be cut when 3in (7cm)
across. Treat as courgettes.
Vegetable Spaghetti (summer): An excellent novelty
– boil for 25 minutes and cut in half. Remove
seeds and then scrape out spaghetti-like strands
with a fork. Home-grown spaghetti!
Table Ace (winter): The winter squashes are not
popular, but you will find several if you search
through the catalogues – Table Ace, Melon
Squash, Butternut, Acorn and Golden Delicious.
The problem is that out season is a little too
short and often too cool to ensure perfection.
Still well worth the effort in southern districts.
These varieties include the pumpkin-shaped edible
gourds – thick-skinned, very large and grown
to maturity on the plant.
Hundredweight: Until recently this was the variety
grown to produce enormous fruits which lived up
to the promise of the name. Mammoth is another
popular variety which has accompanied Hundredweight
on countless show benches.
Atlantic Giant: This world-beater has arrived
from America to make Hundredweight and Mammoth
seem like lightweights. You cannot hope to match
the 500lb (227kg) record set over there.
See Cucumber, outdoor.