HOW TO GROW MARROWS FROM SEED
Like all summer squash, marrows can trace their ancestry back to the American continent, however the varieties of squash typically known as a ‘courgette’ is in fact a selected form of marrow specifically harvested at a young age. The courgette was actually developed in Italy - many generations after their introduction from their country of origin.
Though considered a vegetable in cooking, botanically speaking, the marrow is a fruit. Why? Because the marrow is the receptacle for the plant's seeds.
How to start marrows off indoors
In order to achieve an early crop - and yet have protection against late, spring frosts - marrows can easily be started off indoors. Marrow seed can be sown any time from mid March through to late May. Using a good quality soil-based compost such as John Innes ‘Seed and Potting’, fill 3 inch pots to within ½ inch of the top of the pot. Sow two seeds per pot – on their sides - placing each seed ½ an inch deep.
Once the marrow seedlings emerge, the weaker one can be removed from each pot. Harden off the young plants by putting the first sowing into cold frames at the end of May. Plant them out after about two or three weeks once the risk of late frosts have passed.
Remember to water the pots well before planting out, and avoid holding the plants by their stems as they are easily bruised causing irreparable damage.
If the weather is cool, cover each plant with a cloche for the first week or so, to give them a little extra warmth and protection. Alternatively, use half of a clear plastic 5 litre mineral bottle. Cut the bottle into two halves in order to make two excellent cloches. The top half - whilst giving good protection against the weather – will also allow air and moisture to circulate through the neck of the bottle.
TOP TIP. To prevent flying insects entering through the neck of the bottle, cover with a small piece of fleece and secure it in place with an elastic band.
How to start marrows off outside
Marrows prefer heavier soils, and will always do best in a sunny, sheltered position - away from cold winds. When it comes to preparing the ground, it is well worth adding plenty of well rotted farm manure before hand – in fact, this can be done as early as the previous autumn.
If you intend starting early, you can protect an early planting with cloches. It is a good idea to put your cloches in place where you plan to plant your marrow plants a couple of weeks before you need them as this will to help warm up the soil below. Doing this will greatly increase your early planting chances of success.
.If you are going to sow your marrows from seed directly into the ground then you can do this any time from early May onwards – around about the time of the last late frosts. With cloches you can sow marrow seed up to three weeks earlier.
The trouble with marrows is that they like lots of moisture around the roots, but ironically the plants can rot off if there is too much moisture around the base of the plant. To try and overcome this, marrows are often grown on ridges in order to improve drainage – how to make a marrow ridge is outlined as follows.
How to make a marrow ridge
Begin by digging a small trench about 4 inches deep, then fill the bottom of this trench with well-rotted farm manure until the trench is refilled back to its original soil level – now dig over the trench so that the compost and soil is nicely mixed.
Now dig a second trench next to this first one placing the soil along to top of the original trench so that you a have formed an elongated mound. This will form a ridge into which the marrow seeds can be planted into - 3 ft apart. Alternatively, if you are only growing a few marrow plants, just make one individual mound per plant roughly 1ft 6in square. These mounts do not need to be too high - no more than a few inches at most.
When sowing marrow seed outside, sow two seeds per planting position – covering with ½in of soil. Each planting position should be about 3 ft apart. When the seeds have germinated they can be thinned out by removing the weaker of the two vigorous seedlings. If you are transplanting marrow seedlings, then they should be planted into the ridge at the same depth as they were in the pot.
Marrows require plenty of water so that they are able to grow and fully develop so soak the roots thoroughly and regularly. However, try to keep as much water as you can away from the foliage to help prevent the incidence of fungal infections.
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