How to grow cucurbits and more of the solanum family

Growing zucchini, cucumber, melons, pumpkin and squash
  • All cucurbits like a rich, moist soil and lots of sunshine.
  • Plant zucchini on the outside of the bed. They produce the greatest number of fruit so if they’re easy to access you won’t be constantly standing on the plants.
  • Into the hole you dig for each plant add a spade-ful of chicken poo or sheep pellets and mix in. Then plant the seedlings about a metre apart because of their sprawling nature.
  • After planting add another a trowel-ful of animal manure (chicken, sheep or horse) and a handful of volcanic rock dust (Morganics fertiliser), and water in well.
  • It’s a good idea to put a stick right by the roots of each plant because once they grow it’s often difficult to know where the roots are for watering.
  • Cucurbits have 3 species which are maxima, pepo and moschata. If you want to save the seeds of your plants you can’t plant two of the same species closer than a kilometre apart. If you do, they’ll cross-pollinate and not remain true to type. So, for example, you can grow a zucchini (cucurbita pepo) beside a butternut (cucurbita moschata) and a crown pumpkin (cucurbita maxima) with no likelihood of cross pollination. But if you grow a buttercup and a crown pumpkin, which are both cucurbita maxima, in the same garden, they will cross.
  • Powdery mildew afflicts cucurbits easily. The most important thing to do is to make sure your plants are in high health – the soil is nutrient-dense and you water often.
  • If your plants do succumb to powdery mildew OR as a preventative measure here are three ways to treat the disease (use a watering can to apply):
    Dilute milk 10 parts to 1
    Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda to every 1 litre of water
    Dilute Flowers of Sulphur in water (as per instructions on the packet)
  • If you get powdery mildew you won’t be able to get rid of it, but by repeating the treatments (above) regularly, you’ll be able at least to keep it from spreading.
Planting eggplants, chillis and capsicums
  • The solanum family don’t need soil as rich as the cucurbit family do so there’s no need to put animal manure in each hole. They do however love hot conditions.
  • Plant them about 50 centimetres apart.
  • If you live in a windy area it’s a good idea to put stakes in the soil beside them when planting.
  • Rob plants his eggplants among the chillis and peppers for biodiversity and later on he’ll plant nasturtium and marigolds in and around them to attract beneficial insects.
  • Then add chicken manure (sheep pellets are good if you don’t have this) and a handful of volcanic rock dust around each plant.
  • Rob likes to place large stones or rocks around each plant. The rocks heat up during the day and release heat into the soil at night which assists these heat-loving plants. You can also use bricks or old milk bottles filled with water if you don’t have any rocks.
  • Water everything in well.


Camera: Jarod Murray
Editor: Thomas Asche
Production equipment and post-production services provided by The Black Forest Breathes