With two marrow plants in the garden, a family of five will always have enough food on the table. Here are tips to grow your own marrows.
Soil Marrows are not finicky about soil but they hate the cold. The plants prefer relatively neutral soil into which old kraal manure, compost, superphosphate and a bit of soil has been worked. Sowing time is from September to November: plant the seeds about 75cm apart (3cm deep) with the tips pointing down, fill the holes with sand, water well and scatter a mulch of straw or bark chips. The soil should never dry out.
In pots Marrows are perfect for people who have small gardens. Plant them in deep pots with a minimum diameter of 50cm – you can easily plant two plants in half a wine barrel.
- Unlike other members of the pumpkin family (all runners), marrows form bushes with large, rough leaves that hang over the vegetables like umbrellas. The plants love full sun but the roots need to remain cool and damp. Feed the plants LAN every two weeks but do not scatter the fertiliser right up against the stems. This is, however, not essential if you have prepared the soil properly.
- If you sow at the end of August you can usually start harvesting by early November. You can start tucking into the flowers, and then the courgettes or zucchinis (the baby marrows) and lastly the older, swollen marrows that reach a length of up to 25cm but remain as soft as butter.
- Preferably harvest marrows in the early phase when the skin is still extremely sweet and tender. Since most of them develop within four days, you will have to harvest at least twice a week to stimulate rapid production.
- If you harvest regularly the plant will continue to produce marrows from its centre until it becomes colder in April.
- Don’t be concerned if the rough leaves end up with mould later on. This generally does not affect the plants and the harvest will only become more abundant. If you want the plant to slow down a bit, you can allow one or two marrows to reach maturity. The plant then knows it has produced something that can yield seeds and will stop forming vegetables. Such fully grown marrows can be extremely heavy and up to 75cm in length. In days gone they were often cooked together with cubes of white bread and seasoned with cinnamon and butter.
Pests and plagues
- The biggest problem is pumpkin flies but you can get rid of them easily with the right insecticide – ask your nursery for advice on what will be appropriate.
- Rust and fungal diseases sometimes attack the plants, especially if too much water ends up on the leaves and the days are too cold. Several sprays are available.
- Snails like to eat the plants but only while the leaves are young. Scatter snail pellets as soon as the small plants appear.
Words: Home magazine
Image: Home magazine