Cucurbit seedlingsBy spring, everyone that eats from their gardens is starting to crave summer vegetables again. It’s the great thing about eating with the seasons, just when you can’t stand the sight of another Zucchini they’re all gone (or nearly anyway) and then by the end of winter the idea of Zucchini is exciting all over again.

I’ve started to see some Cucurbits (cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins etc) popping up in odd spaces, which tells me the days are getting long enough and warm enough to start slowly planting. Remember it is still cool and the chances of a really cold front coming through are high so don’t rush out and plant like crazy, just find a few little sheltered pockets in your garden where you can try a few. The other reason for not planting too many now is that if you plant them out little by little you will have a longer and more spread out harvest.

All these vegetables love a rich, well manured soil and plenty of water. Drip irrigation is best for Cucurbits so as to avoid powdery mildew but if you have a spray system make sure you water early in the morning so they are not cool and damp at night.

Cucurbit seedlings

Cucumbers do love something to ramble over, they are quite happy rambling over the ground but this leaves them open to slug and slater attack, so let them climb up and over a fence or trellis. The little cucumber in the photo is planted under a chicken wire trellis, we simply cut the bottom of a large pot to stop root invasion from nearby plants in it’s early days, also to raise it slightly above slug level……….so far so good!

It’s a great time for planting summer veg seeds in the hot house, this way you can monitor their early growth and keep them protected from predators. The cucurbit family are most vulnerable at their two leaf stage, once they’ve got past this the slugs and snails just don’t find them so tasty.

Remember these plants love food, water and space and if they have all of the above they will be highly productive so get ready to eat them. Cucurbits have male and female flowers, the male flowers are on a thin stem while the females are on a short swollen stem, once they have been pollinated (by insects) they will swell and ripen. Don’t forget to pic your cucs and zuchs while they are little and sweet or you’ll end up in a “too many zucchinis” crisis.  More about harvesting later, for now it’s seeds and seedlings.

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