Zucchini is one of the most popular vegetables to grow in a backyard garden. It is very useful in preparing meals and it is an outstanding producer. Just one or two plants will produce enough zucchini for a family during the summer. It is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family which also includes squash and pumpkins. It is considered a summer squash because it has a soft, edible skin.
There are many different varieties to choose from when you want to grow zucchini. All of them are very prolific and produce fruit that is delicious.
Zucchini plants are long, thin, vegetables that resemble a cucumber but are actually a member of the squash family of plants. It is a summer squash that can grow from a seedling to a mature plant in less than two months. The fruit ripens in early to mid-summer and each plant produces an abundance of zucchinis. In addition, to grow rapidly, zucchini squash plants require very little care after the initial planting. As long as you ensure that they receive adequate water when you plant them, you will soon have an abundance of zucchini.
Zucchini is a warm-weather plant, and like most other plants in the summer vegetable garden, they can only be planted outdoors once the threat of frost passes in the spring. However, to get a head start on growing zucchini seeds, you can plant them indoors in the late winter and transplant the seedlings outdoors later as full-grown plants or seedlings.
Zucchini plants are not particular when it comes to the type of soil they are planted in as long as it has full sunlight. Do not plant zucchini squash in soggy locations or areas where the soil stays moist most of the time since rot and fungus will develop.
Since zucchinis don’t require fertile soil, all you really need to do to prepare the ground is to loosen it up. Do this by setting the blade depth on a garden tiller to at least 4 to 5 inches and running the tiller over the planting location once or twice.
If your soil has failed to perform well in the past with regards to vegetable growing, an application of fertilizer may be necessary. Choose an all-purpose fertilizer and apply it to the soil at the time of planting. Later, you can reapply the fertilizer to the zucchini as a side dressing once the plants mature.
Plant zucchini seeds into the prepared planting site at a depth of no more than 1 inch. Place one zucchini seed into each hole and cover the seeds completely with additional soil. Space each seed at least 36 inches apart to allow for the mature height and spread of the zucchini plant.
After the seeds are in the soil, water the area well to start the seed germination process. Continue watering every two to three days until they start growing. Zucchini seeds emerge from the surface of the soil in approximately one week. Once the seedlings reach 3 to 4 inches tall, reduce watering to once per week, although during droughts or heat waves addition water will be required. Instead of growing zucchini seeds in rows, you can plant zucchinis in a hill by mounding soil up to a 12-inch height. Plant three to four zucchini seeds per hill at a 1-inch depth, making sure they are equally spaced.
Zucchini is one of the fastest growing summer vegetables and takes only 45 to 55 days to grow from a seed to produce edible fruit. Pick zucchini when they are about 4 to 6 inches long.
Watch out! Zucchini can grow inches during the night, or at least it seems so. Check them every day. The bigger once have lots of seeds and the main goal is to have more flesh than seeds.
Zucchini doesn’t last long once it is picked so you will have to preserve it to keep it or use it right away.
Zucchini can be frozen but it is best to peel and shred it first before you freeze.
Use it in recipes needing shredded zucchini such as zucchini bread, cake or cookies. You can also cut zucchini in 1-inch slices and sauté gently until still crisp.
Pack them in freezer bags, remove the air and seal. Frozen zucchini lasts for 3 to 4 months. Zucchini will keep about 1 week in the refrigerator.
Zucchini can be plagued with several different pests and diseases so you must inspect your plants for any signs.
Cucumber Beetle is green and yellow; either striped or spotted. They eat the leaves of the plant so look for half-eaten leaves.
Vine Borers will bore into the vine near the base of the plant and chew right through it.
Cutworms will attack your plants early in the season and cut them off right at the base of the plant.
Spider mites and aphids will show up on the undersides of the leaves and they will eat the leaves.
Zucchini is susceptible to powdery mildew wilt. If you see your leaves and stems starting to wilt and a white mildew collecting on the leaves you need to go to the local nursery and get a fungicide. Follow the directions on the box and hopefully, your crop will be saved. These diseases hit in the late summer when the weather is humid. Making sure the plants get plenty of sun will help. Also, do not water on top of the leaves. Snake a soaker hose around your plants and let them drip water to the ground. Good air flow around your plants (not placing them too close together when planting) will also help.
You may see some of the blossoms falling off the plant. Do not be too disturbed if this happens as many times it just natures way of getting rid of blossoms the plant does not need (males). You may also notice that the ends of the zucchini vegetable seem to be soft and rotten. This is caused by Squash Blossom End rot and can be treated by-product from your local nursery.