Vegetable marrows will yield as big a crop (for cooking, jam making, and chutney) grown on the flat or on a sloping bank of soil as on the regulation heap of vegetable refuse or old manure, provided the plants are given rich living and frequent drinks. Full sun is necessary, away from trees.
Because these plants have a reputation for growing themselves, marrows are often consigned to any rubbishy corner of the ground, where they fail because of the shade and drip from tree branches, starvation, and never a sight of the watering can. The crop is too valuable for haphazard treatment at any stage.
Where space is precious, the non-rambling bush varieties should be grown. These include Tender and True, Green Bush, White Bush (creamy-white fruits), Yellow Custard and White Custard. The last two bear smaller and more solid fruits than ordinary marrows, and are flat and broad instead of round and long.
Trailing varieties, which require more space, include Table Dainty,
Long Green, Long White, Long Cream, Moore’s Cream, Pen-y-Byd (round fruited, creamy white).
A small packet of seed will give all the plants likely to be required – 150 plants per ounce. Germination takes about ten days.
Ready for Use. July to autumn. Marrows can also be stored for winter use.
If a mound of good material – old manure, or decaying greenstuff (not sticks and miscellaneous rubbish) – is available and not likely to be required for digging in or other purposes before late autumn, and is not under trees or too shaded by buildings, this should be made solid by beating with the spade, and given a flat top. Depressions (for watering) should be made 3 in. deep and 2 ft. apart; each will accommodate one plant.
If marrows are to be grown on the flat, prepare positions by making for each plant a circular hole 18 in. deep and the same across. Fill to within 6 in. of the top with decaying leaves or other vegetation (weeds, lawn mowings, etc..), and tread this material firmly. Cover with 3 in. of soil, leaving a 3-in. basin for watering; the positions to be not less than 2 ft. apart. On naturally sloping ground, or the side of a bank, leave each depression with a level surface.
Where neither rotting green- -stuff nor manure is obtainable, dig the site 1 ft. deep and rake into the dug surface superphosphate of lime – 2 ounces per sq. yd.
When and How to Sow.
Time to sow outdoors is about mid-May, where the plants are to remain. Two seeds are sown, 2 in. apart and I in. deep, on edge, in the centre of each prepared place, and at once covered with an inverted empty flower pot 6 in. across the top, or a box, or piece of glass. This covering remains in place until top growth appears. It is then removed by day (unless the weather Is cold or very rainy, in which case the covering is propped up at one side to give air) and replaced at night until risk of frost has passed. If both seeds germinate the weaker of the two plants is removed in due course.
Sowing Under Glass.
Earlier plants are obtained by sowing in a sunny, closed frame or in a sunny greenhouse, in mid-April, two seeds 1 in. deep and on edge in each small pot filled with good soil (lightened with sand or sharp grit if heavy) to within ½ in. of the top. These are then filled up with water (the chill taken off) and placed in the frame or greenhouse. Some air is required when top growth appears, and the soil needs to be kept moist but not sodden. The weaker plant of each pair is removed and the plants accustomed by degrees to outdoor conditions before being set out.
If marrow plants are purchased these must not be leggy or pale-looking. They should have thick stems, short joints and substantial green leaves and plenty of roots. If green fly is in evidence dip each plant, inverted (not the roots), in a liquid insecticide such as quassia and soft soap solution, leaves and stem being swished about in the liquid for a few seconds.
Those raised in frame or greenhouse should not be planted out until after mid-May, flower pot or box protection being given each night for a couple of weeks. Plant with a trowel, as deep as the lowest leaves; water at once.
Fill each depression with water as often as the soil approaches dryness. Plants will fail if they go thirsty. As soon as fruit has formed, feeding with dried blood will help – a table-spoonful stirred into each 2 galls. of water, given once a week.
Plants are further strengthened if joints, where these make contact with the ground, are covered with 2-in. deep mounds of soil pressed down. Roots form on those parts of the stem and assist in the swelling of the marrows.
The falling off of young fruits when about 2 in. long, or less, may be due to drought. More often it is due to lack of fertilization of the female flowers. Normally the necessary transference of pollen from male to female flowers is done by bees or other insects. Where no pollen is transferred the fruits cannot set and the immature swellings drop off. It can be done by hand.
Female flowers, which bear the fruit, have a distinct swelling behind the petals and are on very short stems. The male flowers, which do not fruit but provide the pollen, show no swelling and are on long stems.
To effect fertilization, pick off a fully open male flower, bend back the petals and gently press die centre part into the fully open female flower – when sun is shining on the plants – and leave it there. The male flower will later fall away. Some of its pollen having been deposited where required, the swelling behind the female flower will increase and develop into a fine vegetable marrow.
Cutting the Marrows.
Best cookers are those taken young, before the outer skin has toughened to such an extent that it is not easy for the finger-nail to break it. Plants remain longer in bearing if their fruit is not allowed to become too large.
Storing for Winter.
Marrows that are not over-ripe will keep in good condition for months if cut when dry and suspended, by the stalk end and string, under cover where they cannot be affected by frost, damp or too much artificial heat.
Preparing for Table.
Peel the marrow, cut it open, take out seeds, and cut it into convenient sizes for boiling or frying. As a food it is very palatable and filling.