Every summer the following joke circulates in Maine: Why do Mainers lock their cars in August? So people won’t dump zucchinis in the back seat!
Zucchini is an easy and bountiful crop to grow. In fact, tasty slender zooks turn into oversized baseball bats almost overnight if you are not vigilant. Zucchini is an excellent source of vitamin C and other nutrients—the darker the skin the more nutrients. It’s also very low in calories. If you get tired of zucchini bread and stuffed zucchini, you can sneak bits of zucchini into soups, stews, salads, stir fries, and smoothies.
Ambassador, Condor, and Spacemiser are compact varieties, good for smaller gardens. Gold Rush is a compact yellow bush that’s resistant to powdery mildew. Costata Romanesco is an Italian type with ribbed fruit. Seneca tolerates cooler weather.
Zucchini is a warm weather crop; plant in full sun after the soil has warmed up. There’s no sense in rushing the season by planting early because the seeds won’t germinate and may rot—unless, of course, you use row covers or hot caps. You can, however, start zucchini inside four weeks before outside planting time, or buy seedlings.
Plant zucchini seeds in well-drained soil. Zucchini are not heavy feeders, so if you plant them in good garden soil they shouldn’t need extra fertilizer.
Zucchini is usually sown in hills three feet apart, five seeds to a hill, two inches deep. Water every two or three days until the seeds germinate, unless it rains heavily. When the seedlings have one set of true leaves thin to the strongest two or three plants by cutting off the weaker ones.
If you cut them instead of pulling them out you won’t risk damaging the tender roots of the remaining seedlings. Continue to water deeply around the base of the plants.
Zucchini Pests and Diseases
Cucumber beetles are common zucchini pests, and are best picked and squished. Growing your zooks under row covers helps keep cucumber beetles from destroying the leaves. Mother Earth News has invented a “squash bug squisher” you can make at home. Find out how to do it and read gardeners’ reports on their success on this webpage.
Squash vine borers do exactly what the name suggests; they bore holes inside the stem. A small operation often takes care of the problem. With a clean knife, make a slit along the length of the stem and clean out the borers. Then mound soil around the stem, covering up the slit. Bacillus thuringiensis can also control the borers.
Zucchinis are susceptible to bacterial wilt and powdery mildew. Avoid overhead watering and crowding to protect the plants from powdery mildew. Immediately remove and destroy plants with wilt. Because insects spread these diseases it’s important to check the undersides of the leaves regularly and spray with insecticidal soap if you see aphids, whiteflies, or spider mites.
Plant varieties resistant to the diseases that are common in your location.
To prevent insects and diseases from growing in the plant debris, remove plants right after you finish harvesting.
Zucchinis grow very fast, and are ready to harvest in 45 to 55 days when they are six to eight inches long. With a knife (don’t pull), cut the fruit’s stem between the fruit and the main stem. Even a few days past their prime zucchinis get to be as big, dry, and tough as baseball bats, so don’t wait to harvest them.
Zucchini have male and female flowers. The female flowers have swellings at the base, which develop into the zucchini fruit. The male flowers make colorful additions to salads and are good in tempura. Harvest flowers in the morning, place with their bases in water, and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.
For More Information about Zucchini:
Learn more about growing and cooking zucchini at these websites: