How to plant zucchini and a summer insectary

Planting zucchini
  • Zucchini plants need a metre square of space round them. They grow into large plants and they need lots of air movement round them to reduce the likelihood of contracting fungal diseases. If you have limited space, place your plant at the edge of a garden bed.
  • One plant at a time is enough for a family. Plants produce for 10-12 weeks, so if you put one in now you can replace it after Christmas to extend the season.
  • Before planting, dig compost into your soil, mounding it up to produce greater warmth and keep it free draining.
  • The variety we’re planting is Parthenon, a modern variety bred for disease resistance. It’s also parthenocarpic which means we’ll get female flowers only but they’ll be self-fertile. This is important at this time of the year when the weather is still changeable – if we get more rain, the bees won’t come out and therefore won’t fertilise zucchini varieties that have male and female flowers.
  • After planting, lay a nitrogen fertiliser like chicken poo or sheep pellets round each plant for good leaf growth, followed by a handful of rock dust which has phosphorus to help the flowers set. We lay the fertiliser on the top so that the rain and earthworms can take the food down from the surface to the plant.
  • Water it all in well. When the leaves grow we can lift them up and mulch underneath around the plants which will help keep moisture in the soil.
  • These plants could well be fruiting in 3-4 weeks. Once they start, you need to pick them regularly when they’re the right size. Overnight they can turn from a zucchini to a marrow and when this happens it sends a signal to the plant that the season is over and the plant should set seed and stop producing.
When a salad crop goes to seed
  • In our salad bed the red Batavia lettuces and mustard lettuce are growing well. But the large-leafed rocket, tat soi and mesclun are all going to seed.
  • The main reason the plants are going to seed is we haven’t been picking them often enough. It’s just the way nature works – the plants think the season is over and they want to reproduce themselves and so set seed.
  • Other reasons for leafy greens going to seed are the combination of cold nights and warm days (something Batavia lettuces cope well with); and not enough food and water. You can save your plants by cutting off the flowers, cutting back the plants and giving them a good feed and water.
  • The advantage of letting the plants flower however is that it brings the beneficial insects into the garden – the bees, hoverflies and parasitic wasps.
  • Also the flowers are all edible and are a lovely addition to salads.
Hilling up potatoes
  • As soon as potato plants grow about 10 cms out of the soil, you need to mound soil or compost over and around the plants, leaving a little bit of greenery showing. If you planted potatoes in a container, simply add more potting mix over the top of the plants.
Planting an insectary
  • Today we’re planting hardy long-lived annuals like zinnias, cosmos, chrysanthemum, scabiosa, aster and cornflower. These are good insectary plants because of their large flowers for the bees and insects to feed on.
  • Plant with the small species in the front facing the sun – you don’t want larger species shading the smaller ones. They can be planted reasonably closely to one another as they’ll support each other as they grow.
  • Around the plants we add rock dust which is high in potassium and helps with flower development.


Camera: Davian Lorson
Editor: Thomas Asche