Garden

My experiment: growing courgettes in a quadgrow

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I’m doing one of my mad experiments in the garden again. It’s completely unplanned but hey ho. I had a spare quadgrow sitting gathering dust and two scrawny little courgette plant babies that I was going to bin. So I thought, if it doesn’t work then it’s no loss. So they got planted up into one of the big quadgrow self watering planters to see how they would fair.

My original idea has been to see simply if the regular watering and feeding offered by the quadgrow would give me stronger, healthier plants, or create plants which produced more fruit. I’ve already got a courgette in a bed and one in a large pot (the way I have always grown them), so this gave me a third tester. Hey it’s all fun.

It’s been a while since we closely followed a courgette plant, not since the days of our regular Colin updates, but like I said, there was nothing planned about this experiment. It was a happy meeting of spare plants and pots, so what the heck.

We’ve always grown courgettes in big pots, since way back when we first started gardening. It was only a couple of years ago that I put one in a bed just because there was space. To be honest though, it’s neither been the pot or bed scenario that’s been the biggest change for us, it’s simply that we now grow the courgettes outdoors, whereas we had originally grown them in the greenhouse, believing they wouldn’t grow well outdoors in Scotland. Yeah so we got that very wrong!!

So this year. I had two scrawny little plants – the spares which to be honest were destined for the bin. I’m trying to be much better at not growing every single plant that takes. Trying…. I’m not claiming that I have actually improved, but hey, at least I’m aware of this fault (ask Kate about the foxgloves or sunflowers from this year). But to cut the story down, I was on my way to the bin when I thought…. I wonder and turned right back around again.

Like I said, we have one plant in a raised bed, one in a big pot, same pot we always grow in and two in a quadgrow planter. For those of you new to my mad experiments, a quadgrow is a self watering planter with space for 4 large plants. I usually grow tomatoes and sweet peppers in these, but I do love me an experiment. I thought for this though, courgettes are very wide, so I really couldn’t see 4 plants sitting happily in there, hence I’ve just got the two. One at each end. I think I could have 3 going, but the system doesn’t allow for that. So 2 it is.

The smaller plant has had quite a severe prune to deal with powdery mildew

The other thing this allows, is for me to use canes as supports. I’ve found in the past that as the plant grows and we harvest the fruit and usually have to cut of the odd leaf, it creates a stem that almost looks like the plant has gotten too tall and fallen over. So my thought had been that I’d be able to use the canes and storing to support the plant. We aren’t at that stage yet.

Now we are at the very beginning of this experiment, given that we are only seeing our first month or so of fruit, but so far there have been some interesting observations. One of the things I had originally wondered about what powdery mildew. Something a lot of gardeners battle against with plants like courgettes, tomatoes etc. I’ve heard that it’s actually caused by irregular watering, periods of dry and damp. So I thought, would the quadgrow, famous for regulating watering, help to prevent this?

That turned out to be the biggest part of the learning curve for me. I have now discovered that I’d never actually had powdery mildew on my courgettes, what I’d thought was powdery mildew was in fact a mix of natural colourings on the leaves and natural die back.

NOW HOWEVER, I am really battling powdery mildew, for the first time.

So how has the quadgrow faired? Well, remembering this is the beginning of the journey, so far the two plants in the quadgrow are actually the ones suffering the most. I know, right?! So looks like the regular watering idea has just sunk. No winner here.

At the minute I can’t tell if there will be a difference in harvests between the plants, but what I can say is that so far, the plant which is in a traditional bed is the biggest and healthiest of the three. Followed by the plant in the large pot and the two in the quadgrow are still the smaller plants. However it’s worth remembering that these started out aS runts, so it may not be anything to do with their current growing conditions. At the moment we will have to wait and see… but this could make for an interesting experiment.

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