Growing zucchini is a great plant for beginners because it’s easy to grow. Each zucchini plant yields an abundant harvest. In fact, one of the key things is not planting too much so you aren’t overwhelmed with squash during the height of the growing season. One or two plants are usually plenty for a home garden.
Here are ten tips for how to grow zucchini:
1. Choose a Sunny Spot to Grow Zucchini
Picking the right spot for your plants gives them a better chance to thrive. Look for a location with more than six hours of direct sun and rich, well-drained soil. Prepare the soil by adding a few inches of compost or other organic matter because zucchini are heavy feeders that need plenty of nutrients.
2. Grow Zucchini Plants from Seed
Zucchini grows well from seed. When starting a zucchini from seed, it’s best to sow the seeds directly where you want the plant to grow because zucchini doesn’t transplant well. But if you want a head start on the season, you can start seeds indoors three to four weeks before your average last frost date in spring. Use biodegradable pots so you can plant the container in the ground without disturbing the plant roots. Harden off seedlings, which means adjust them to the outdoors, for a week before planting them in the garden.
3. When to Plant Zucchini
Wait until the soil warms to set zucchini seedlings or plant seeds outdoors. The soil should be around 60 degrees F because zucchini seeds don’t germinate in cold temperatures. Zucchini plants thrive in warmer temperatures too and can become stunted if the seedlings are set out when it’s too cold. Black plastic spread over the surface of the soil can help speed the warming process to prepare for planting. It’s best to wait at least a week or two after the last frost date to plant your zucchini outdoors.
4. How Far Apart to Plant Zucchini
There are two basic ways to plant zucchini: individually or grouped on hills. Some people prefer to plant zucchini individually because it’s easier to fit in their vegetable garden. In this case, plant two or three zucchini seeds about an inch deep and space plants at least 36 inches apart. Once the seeds sprout, thin to one sprout per spot by cutting the weaker sprouts at soil level. If you have seedlings, simply plant them where you want them to grow.
5. How to Group Zucchini Plants on a Hill
Making a small mound in your garden is also one of the best ways to grow zucchini. One advantage of this method is that hills tend to warm faster in spring. Pile soil about 12-24 inches wide and 6-12 inches high. Plant four or five zucchini seeds around the top of the hill, then thin to two sprouts per hill. Otherwise, you can plant two seedlings per hill.
6. Mulch Around Zucchini Plants
Spread a two to three-inch layer of mulch, such as compost or straw, around the base of established zucchini plants. This helps stabilize the ground temperature and improves water retention to keep the soil moist.
7. Water Zucchini Plants Weekly
Keep zucchinis watered with about an inch of water per week. Moist soil is best for the plants, but it shouldn’t be soaking wet. Water at ground level with a soaker hose or other form of irrigation to help avoid problems with powdery mildew, a common fungus. Watering deeply once or twice a week is better than frequent, shallow watering because it provides even water to the roots.
8. Watch Your Zucchini Flowers for Pollination
If your plants produce flowers but no zucchini, they may not be getting pollinated. This is usually because there aren’t enough bees around to do the job. You can encourage bees to visit your garden and pollinate your zucchini by planting other flowers or herbs, such as coneflower, basil, lavender, zinnia and dill.
Each zucchini plant has two types of flowers, male and female. For a zucchini plant to produce squash, bees need to carry pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. Male flowers have a thin stem while female flowers have a thick stem and a bulge from the developing zucchini.
If the bees aren’t pollinating your zucchini flowers, try pollinating the plants yourself. Use a cotton swab or small paintbrush to move pollen from the male flowers onto the golden stigma of the female flowers.
9. Weeding Around Zucchini Plants
When your zucchini plants are young you can remove weeds around the plants with a hoe or hand cultivator. As the plants grow their large leaves will eventually shade much of the surrounding ground and discourage weeds from sprouting. Any weeds that do sprout around your zucchini plants at that point can be removed by hand.
10. How to Tell if Zucchini is Ripe
For tender zucchini with a great flavor, pick each zucchini squash when it’s about four to six inches long. Zucchini fruits grow quickly, so check plants every day or two during harvest time. Use a sharp knife or pruning shears to cut the fruit off the vine since it’s easy to bruise the delicate skin.
Zucchini fruit left on the plant too long get large, tough and seedy. Huge zucchini squash isn’t good for eating but it can still make good bread or muffins. If fruit gets very large and gourd-like, it’s best to toss it in the compost pile.
You Can Eat Zucchini Flowers
Zucchini blossoms are also edible. You can fry zucchini flowers, serve them raw in a salad or use them in other recipes. Harvest the blossom with a sharp knife once the petals open. Choose the male flowers and leave the female flowers on the vine to produce fruit.
Zucchini is a popular variety of summer squash that produces a large crop. Here are some delicious and easy zucchini recipes.