I have found Zucchini to be one of the easiest vegetables to grow. Unlike their cucumber cousins, they don’t spread like a vine but actually, form more of a bush. Although they have a reputation for taking up a lot of space I have grown them successfully in a 16-inch pot on my deck so there really is no reason that you can’t grow them even if you don’t have a great deal of gardening space. The size of this plant along with ease with which it is grown makes it a fun plant for children to grow too. Its seeds are easy for kids to handle and there are usually lots of Zucchini to harvest!
Zucchini is also known as Summer Squash and as that name suggests it is a warm weather crop. Once nighttime temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees you can plant your seed. Zucchini prefers soil that has good drainage and is rich in organic matter such as compost as they are heavy feeders. Plant the seed about 2 inches deep and eventually space the plants about 2 feet apart. If you need to thin seedlings out to obtain this spacing you should cut the seedling off at the ground level rather than pull it as this can disturb the roots of the plants you want to maintain.
Once the plants have begun growing it is important to keep the soil evenly moist. Zucchini requires a lot of water, particularly in hot weather. It is not unusual for their leaves to wilt during the heat of the day but if the leaves are wilted in the morning that is a sign they require water right away. A good mulch is another way to help the soil retain moisture and this will ensure you don’t end up with stunted or deformed fruit. Although they like a lot of water Zucchini are subject to diseases such as powdery mildew so try to avoid watering the leaves if that is possible. If you see a sign of this on one the leaves you should remove and discard it quickly to avoid it spreading to the rest of the plant.
Finally, here are two special tips to deal with unique problems that you might run into while trying to grow Zucchini:
If you are growing Zucchini in an area where bees are scarce, such as the balcony of an urban hi-rise condominium, you might have to pollinate the female flower in order to get the fruit to grow. Each plant produces both male and female flowers. You can take a Q-tip or soft bristle toothbrush and insert it into the male flower to gather pollen. The male flower is the one with no fruit attached to it. Gently open the female flower, the one with a small fruit attached to it and dust the inside with the pollen you have gathered.
Zucchini can be bothered by pests such as cucumber beetles but are particularly subject to attacks by squash borers. If you see a small hole in the stem of the plant this is a sign that borers are already at work. You can still save the plant by cutting a small slit around the hole and removing the borers. You can then cover the spot that you’ve cut with soil to help the plant heal itself.
Every vegetable garden should have a Zucchini plant or two in it. Fruit can be harvested as early as 60 days after planting so there is still time to plant yours if you hurry!