Tips for Growing Zucchini
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Zucchini is a fast grower, easy to manage, and gives great yields. Check out these tips for growing zucchini that even the beginning gardener can do.
Zucchini is part of the summer squash family. Zucchinis are vibrant and produce several flowers and fruits from one stem during the peak season. They make delicious dishes – baked, used in salads, or roasted. This article will guide you on how to plant zucchinis correctly to maximize yields in your garden. Healthy plants provide high yields.
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Best ways to grow zucchini
Here’s how to get started with planting zucchinis;
Zucchinis are not fussy about how you choose to start them. However, it is easier to sow the seeds directly into the ground instead of starting a seedling. They have large seeds, so they are easy for kids to plant as well. The seeds start germinating within a week of planting.
When to plant zucchini in Oklahoma
Zucchini thrives in the warm season. Avoid planting the crop when the ground is frozen. They are not frost-resistant and will never germinate in such conditions. The best time to plant them is when the weather and soil start warming up. In Oklahoma, you can start zucchini seeds after April 15, but waiting until May 1st is a good idea. We get some late frosts some years.
In most areas, the best time to plant Zucchini is from late May to early July. This depends on the humidity and temperature of the region.
The location of your garden will influence its yield. Zucchini thrives in the full sun. They need at least 6 hours of daily exposure to the sun to thrive. Eight hours is even better. The soil should be moist, but not waterlogged. Rich, well-drained soil provides better results.
Growing zucchini works well when sown directly into the ground or in containers. When sowing in containers ensure it has drainage holes and is deep enough to encourage optimal root growth for supporting the plant. Containers are portable and can be relocated to offer your plants the best environment for growth.
Give each seedling enough space to thrive when planting. When sowing seeds directly to the ground keep them 1-2 feet apart and about 1/2 inch deep. Water thoroughly after planting.
Add a layer of mulch after planting the seeds onto the ground to keep the moisture locked in. When the first blooms appear, add fertilizer to boost fruit production. Zucchini fertilizers should contain high amounts of nitrogen. Since they also require potassium and phosphorus, seek a well-balanced fertilizer for the plants. 10-10-10 formulation would be good for the plants.
You can apply either granule or water-soluble fertilizers to the zucchini plant. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when diluting and applying fertilizer to avoid burning your plants. The same goes for the granular fertilizer. If your soil is rich you may not need to apply fertilizers. You can enrich your soil by adding compost or manure.
Mulching keeps weeds away from your zucchini plant. Keep your zucchini garden weed-free. Weeds compete for nutrients with plants and can also be a medium for spreading pests and diseases.
Zucchini love moist but not waterlogged soils. Water well and frequently at least once per week. Increase this frequency if there is no rainfall in your zone during the growing season. If unsure of how much water to give your plants, poke the soil using a finger before watering. If the soil feels patched and dry to the touch, your need to water the plants.
When watering, direct the water stream to the base of the plant and not the leaves. Zucchini leaves can spread diseases easily. If you do not have time for consistent watering, install a drip irrigation system to help keep the soil moist always.
Pruning and staking zucchini plants help to maximize their yield. Target the leaves at the bottom of the plant when pruning. The leaves at the top are important for flower growth. Use a sharp pruning knife to cut these stems off clean. Dispose of the cut parts of the plant to discourage the possible spread of diseases to the other plants.
Plant a stake close to the base of the zucchini plant and tie the stem gently just as you would for tomato plants. This will guide the plant and support it while it grows. Staking also helps the zucchini plant avoid possible soil-borne diseases. Check out the world’s best trellis here.
Zucchini companion plants
Check out the best plants to plant with squash in this companion planting article.
The harvest time depends on the zucchini variety you planted. Some are fast growers while others tend to take longer to mature. Do not keep the fruits in the garden for long once they have matured. Zucchinis are tender and have more flavor and taste when they are young. Most varieties take about 60-90 days to mature.
Zucchini is ready for harvesting at 3-8 inches long. Using a sharp knife, cut off the fruits from the plant with at least an inch of the stem attached. This will help the plant stay longer after harvest before use. If the zucchini grows too big, it will be hard and not as good for eating. If you do let your zucchini grow too big and it’s not usable, consider making zucchini flour out of it. Anything to cut down on wasted food.
✔Here’s a link to a great vegetable garden planner you can print right out and use at home! So cute!
Hand-pollinating zucchini plants
Sometimes when growing zucchini, plants drop their blooms before forming fruits. This is common and here is how to pollinate zucchini by hand;
- Locate male and female flowers that have opened up recently. This is best done in the morning. Male flowers have short stems. Female flowers have long stems with a zucchini fruit shape at the base.
- Cut the male flower and get rid of the petals
- Roll the pollen from the male flower onto the center of the female flower gently
Tip: If you do not wish to cut off the male flower, use a cotton swab or paintbrush to get the pollen from this flower and rub it gently onto the stigma of the female flower. Kind of like you are tickling it.
How to store Zucchini
Zucchinis have a short shelf life. They can stay fresh for about 10 days if well stored. If you have too much zucchini, you can freeze it to last for up to 3 months.
I like to grate it and freeze it in one cup portions to throw into sauces and soups all winter long when there isn’t much good produce available. You can use it on pizza under the sauce, in spaghetti sauce, soup, gravy, scrambled eggs, and so much more! I love adding nutrition to my kid’s food.
There are numerous zucchini varieties. Every variety packs plenty of minerals and vitamins. Here are some of the most popular varieties for growing zucchini:
- Black beauty
- Golden Egg
- Green Machine
- Spineless perfection
- Round Zucchini
- Crookneck squash
- Bush Baby
- Gourmet gold
Check out this month by month garden planting guide too.
Pests and diseases affecting Zucchinis
Zucchini is vulnerable to several pests and diseases. Here are some of these pests and diseases and what you can do to prevent their spread;
- Squash vine borers – As the name suggests, squash vine borers will go through the stems of your zucchini plants with surgical precision. This leaves weak, stunted plants that cannot support fruit development.
Wrap aluminum foil strips at the base of the plant in early summer to discourage egg laying or use row covers in the first couple of months.
- Aphids – Aphids cause mottled leaves, stunted growth, yellow leaves, wilting, curled leaves, and plant death.
You can control aphids by clipping off affected leaves and introducing beneficial insects to the garden. Lady bugs, lacewings, and hoverflies are good aphid predators. You can also remove them by spraying the plant with a high-pressure spray. Spraying soapy dishwater also prevents the spread of aphids.
- Squash bugs – Squash bugs feed on zucchini sap leaving holes and leaves and fruits.
Use row covers to protect the plant during the first couple of months after planting. By denying them access to the plant, the bugs die a natural death when summer comes. Check the zucchini foliage occasionally and manually remove these bugs from the plant.
- Cucumber beetles – Cucumber beetles feed heavily on zucchini flowers, leaves, and fruits. As they do so, the plant wilts and eventually dies. Use row covers to prevent the spread of cucumber beetles. Introducing natural predators such as braconid wasps and tachinid flies controls the spread of cucumber beetles.
Many diseases affect zucchinis but here are the two most notorious ones you need to look out for;
- Powdery mildew – Powdery mildew causes the leaves to turn a yellowish color. They also get a powdery coating on the surface. The plants weaken, the fruits start ripening early and the yield declines. Powdery mildew may be caused by planting your crops too close together.
Spread your zucchini plants, weed properly, and remove any leaves or plants that exhibit these symptoms to curb the spread to other plants.
- Bacterial Wilt – This causes the plants to wilt and leads to discoloration of the stems. Getting rid of cucumber beetles will effectively control the spread of this disease.
Does Zucchini cross-pollinate?
Most zucchinis will readily cross-pollinate with other members of the squash family. This may or may not be a good thing. The good thing is that it guarantees yield. The ‘not-so-good’ thing is that you may have fruits with interesting colors, shapes, and flavors. But sometimes you come up with the most happy accident this way. Gardening is a wonderful journey!
Is zucchini a nightshade?
Zucchini is part of the cucurbit family. It is not a nightshade. It is very allergy friendly for most people. It is low in carbs and high in nutrients. Growing zucchini is great and a wonderful food to add to your diet.
Vegetarian zucchini lasagna
This vegetarian zucchini lasagna is one of our favorites. It’s nightshade free AND gluten free too. It’s great for allergies.
For more great zucchini dishes, check these out: