Courgette plants can take up quite a lot of square footage in the garden. If you only have a balcony or small courtyard, do not worry. Several new courgette varieties are perfect for growing vertically as climbing courgettes.
Most courgettes (Cucurbita pepo var. pepo), also known as zucchini, have a bushy habit and can take up valuable growing space. However, there are now some courgette varieties that have been bred to produce long stems that are ideal for training vertically up supports or trellis, taking up less room. There are many different courgette varieties available to grow, read on to find out which cultivars are suitable for growing vertically and how to support and grow them.
Which varieties are suitable as climbing courgettes?
Courgettes with a bushy habit often tend to have short thick stems that are unsuitable for growing as climbing courgettes. There are not many, but here are some climbing courgette varieties with thinner and longer stems, making them ideal for growing vertically. Courgettes are not self-clinging, unlike ivy, and will need tying in as they grow.
- Climbing courgette ˈBlack Forest F1ˈ: vigorous; cylindrical green fruit with yellow flowers; grows up to 2m tall; impressive yields from mid-summer onwards.
- Climbing courgette ˈShooting Star F1ˈ: golden yellow cylindrical fruits 15 – 20cm long with yellow flowers; impressive yields; British variety.
- Climbing courgette ˈWave Climberˈ: 20 – 25cm long dark green fruits; up to 2m tall; crops from July onwards.
- Climbing courgette ‘Tromboncino d’Albengaˈ: bright green, slender fruits 25cm – 1m long if left to mature; vigorous, can grow up to 4m tall if allowed.
Climbing courgettes typically grow to a height of roughly 2m, although some cultivars can grow even taller, which can be restricted by pinching out the growing tip at the desired height. Climbing courgettes can be grown as freestanding plants in pots. However, it is often easier and more practical to grow them against a wall or fence to which the supports or trellis can lean against or be attached.
Both bush and climbing courgettes dislike being overcrowded as it reduces the air circulation around the plants and can encourage disease. Even though it may be tempting, it is best to stick to the variety’s recommended spacing and avoid squeezing in as many plants as possible as it can be detrimental to the plants’ health and productivity.
Climbing courgettes are perfect for growing in containers or troughs as they take up little ground space and are planted in a similar way to bush courgettes. See our other article for more advice on planting courgettes.
Tip: growing courgettes vertically lifts their stems, foliage and fruits up off the ground increasing air circulation, which can help reduce the likelihood of courgette mildew and other diseases.
Climbing courgette plants need sturdy and robust supports because they can be surprisingly heavy when heavily laden with fruits. When deciding where to plant your climbing courgette and install the supports, keep in mind their preferred growing conditions as well as access to the fruits when it comes to harvesting the courgettes. Ideally, supports or trellis should be added before, or at the time of planting, so that the new growth can be tied in straight away to train the stems vertically.
What type of support to use?
Climbing courgette supports can either be freestanding or attached to a wall or fence and can be purchased or made from gardening materials at home. Here are some of the most common options used to support climbing courgettes:
- Trellis: whether wooden or plastic, trellis is often a preferred method due to its availability and strength. Trellis can be attached to a wall to tie in the stems on the outward-facing side, or it can be installed between two posts to create a freestanding support that allows the fruits to be harvested from either side.
- Bamboo canes: bamboo canes or coppiced hazel poles can be made into a wigwam and tied together with twine or string. The courgette is then trained up and around the wigwam. To ensure a strong structure, use thick and sturdy canes or poles.
- Wire/plastic netting: readily available; rigid netting or mesh can be kept upright by threading poles or canes through the netting’s holes or by attaching it to a wall or roof.
- Obelisks: ready-made freestanding metal or wooden obelisks are great for training climbing courgettes up. Ideal for placing in a container; often strong and sturdy.
- Twine or string: a simple lattice of garden twine can support climbing courgettes. Attach vine eyes to a wall and string some strong twine between them, or place sturdy poles either side of the courgette and string some twine between them.
Tip: tie in the courgette stems regularly using rubber ties or clips to spread the load.
Pruning and tying in climbing courgettes
Most climbing courgette varieties will reach a height of about 2m, although some cultivars can grow even taller. When the leading stem reaches the desired height, pinch out the growing tip to encourage fruit production and restrict the vertical growth.
As a non-clinging plant, climbing courgettes need tying in as soon as their stems can be trained up the support. When mature and carrying fruit, the plants can weigh a remarkable amount, placing strain on the stems and ties used. To avoid the ties damaging the stems, use soft rubber coated wire or clips, or even an old pair of stretchy tights to loosely tie in the stems at regular intervals to the supports.
Climbing courgettes like the same growing conditions as bush varieties. They prefer a sheltered location in full sun with moist fertile soil. Learn more about growing, caring for and fertilising courgettes in our dedicated article.