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Understanding male and female courgette flowers

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Gareth Austin Gareth Austin | 09:21 UK time, Monday, 2 August 2010

Gareth Austin, gardening expert with BBC Radio Foyle, answers your questions about wilting courgettes, sent in to us at Dig In, about the difference between male and female courgette flowers and how using a liquid feed may rescue a wilting courgette plant. If you have advice to share about growing the Dig In courgettes, you can add your comments at the bottom of this entry.

Christine from Yalding asks: Can you explain about the male and female habits of the courgette? I've got loads of large leaves, and then the flowers drop off the ends of what I thought would be a courgette, then nothing. I have been told these are male plants. What? How? And then what? From a puzzled courgette grower.

Answer: Christine, good question! On a courgette you get two different types of flowers - the male and the female. Early in the season the plant will produce lots of male flowers (which bear no fruit) and then female flowers will start to appear - these will have a distinctive 'swelling' behind the flowers - this is the courgette. The male flowers will be produced throughout the season, and once the female flowers are pollinated feel free to pick the male flowers, lightly batter them and fry for a delicious snack!

Sonya Evans from Hertfordshire asks: Can I cut off the leaves covering the courgette flowers as it stops the sun getting to them?

Answer: Sonya, it's best to leave the leaves and all in place. Courgettes use these large leaves to photosynthesise and ensure a good, healthy crop. The leaves help to protect the fruits and flowers from poor weather. Enjoy!

Teresa from Derbyshire asks: My courgette plant has collapsed. The leaves look wilted but we've had loads of rain. I dug it up and it' roots were shallow. I have replanted it. New leaves on the plants were yellow too, is that normal? Do I need to give them lots of water even after a heavy downpour? The soil is very moist.

Answer: Teresa, this doesn't sound good! First, ensure you are regularly feeding your courgette, liquid tomato food is ideal on a weekly basis. Also courgettes have a good demand for water, plant an empty tin can or hollow plastic bottle beside the plant so you can 'target' the water to the roots of the plants. Powdery mildew on the leaves can be a problem when the leaves are wetter than the roots. Hope this helps, please let us know how you get on!

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