Growing Zucchini So You Have a Big Harvest

Whether you are a beginner or experienced gardener, growing a zucchini plant is easy. Growing zucchini is one way to be sure you have success with a vegetable garden.

This summer squash is simple to cultivate. You just need a few plants to grow up to 10 pounds of zucchini.

While it will grow prolifically alone, with some maintenance and care — especially with pollination — it will flourish throughout its growing season. 

Zucchini grows well in most climate zones as long as you plant it after the last frost. In some areas that will be February while in others that can be late April into May.

Keep reading for tips for planting zucchini and how to grow zucchini.

Zucchini Plant ~ How to Grow Zucchini This Summer

It’s a warm season crop that’s hardy, low maintenance, and can grow most anywhere. Zucchinis are summer squashes. It is also called courgette.

As a summer squash, it grows well from seeds and from starts (plants you buy from the store which are already growing).

In most areas, you plant zucchini in the spring and harvest in the summer. 

The scientific name is Cucurbita pepo. It’s an annual which means it grows, fruits, seeds and then dies in the same year. You need to replant the following year if you want to grow zucchini again.

It’s important to wait two years before growing zucchini in the same spot. 

Growing Zucchini

When preparing to plant zucchini, there are some requirements and conditions that will help grow an abundant crop. These are all important:

  • Time of year
  • Where you plant it
  • Propagation method
  • Soil

When to Plant Zucchini

These plants cannot withstand freezing temperatures, so you will want to plant it in spring or early in the summer. If you live in a warm climate, you can plant earlier.

It will grow best when the soil temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit or more. The optimal outdoor temperature is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Zucchinis can grow one to two inches each day, and you can get ten pounds of fruit from one zucchini plant.

It takes about two months for their harvesting to complete, so you will want to plant them as soon as possible to get multiple harvests during the fruiting season.

Where to Grow

There are things to keep in mind when you consider where to plant zucchini:

  1. Sunlight
  2. Space

The ideal location to plant courgette is in a full-sun region with lots of room for spreading. They need at least six hours of sunlight a day, and they can handle up to ten hours of direct sunlight.

The area needs to drain well to avoid becoming soggy.

Planting zucchini on hills of soil helps provide more warmth in colder climates so that you can start growing sooner and have multiple harvests each year. Hills also solve the drainage issues that flat rows can have.

You can better utilize compost on a hill to enrich the soil and provide your plant with more nutrients.

Keep zucchini plants together to increase pollination. Doing so means you’ll have a higher chance of harvesting more fruit.

However, zucchini plant spacing is important. You can work them up a trellis easily to conserve space if necessary. It’s easy to trellis zucchini.

Otherwise, you can keep them growing horizontally, depending on the space in your garden. Because of their spread and vines, allow for 36 inches (3 feet) between zucchini plants. This will allow them to grow and allow for air circulation among plants. 

Also when you space plants far apart, the leaves can dry and have less chance of spreading diseases such as powdery mildew. 

Give them space to grow so they can thrive and produce a lot of fruit. If you plant in a garden bed or right in the ground, you can choose a zucchini variety that has longer vines.

Containers and Pots

You can grow zucchini in pots and containers if they are large enough. There are some zucchini varieties that do well in containers. These are bush types which vine less. They are better suited for small garden spaces and for container gardening. 

growing zucchini in pots
Growing zucchini in pots

Propagation

The two main propagation methods for planting zucchini are:

  • Plant starts which are pre-existing plants
  • Plant zucchini from seeds

Availability, costs, time commitment, and how early or late in the season it is can be deciding factors.

Growing Zucchini from Seed

Germination will take place in 10 – 14 days. However, when planting zucchini seeds, not all of them may grow.

It’s typically less expensive to plant from seed than to grow from starts. This is because a packet of seeds can contain 20 or more seeds giving you the chance to grow that many plants.

However, many of the seeds may not grow. In addition, you will want to thin them out and keep the strongest plants.

You may feel more fulfillment planting the seeds from scratch and waiting for them to bud. 

Growing Zucchini from Starts

If you opt for an already-growing plant, you can more readily plant it and expect it to sprout fruit sooner. You can go to a home improvement center or nursery or garden center and find zucchini starts.

These are small zucchini plants which will be several inches tall. You can easily transplant them in your garden. Zucchini plant starts can cost $4 or more each. The good news is you have an established plant.

Nutrient-Rich Soil

If you have the time for it, you can prepare the soil a few months before the growing season. Otherwise, buy organic soil that’s already amended with compost. 

It’s important to have fertile, well-draining soil. 

When growing zucchini it’s best to have loamy soil. You can achieve the ideal conditions by mixing fertilizer with gardening mulch to add the needed nutrients to the native soil.

If you want to take it a step further, you can test the soil pH to ensure it is between 6 and 7.5. Buy a soil test kit at a garden center or home improvement center such as Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Menards, or Lowes.

An accessible way to alter soil pH to make it more acidic is by adding pine needles or peat moss. You can make it more alkaline with lime.

Tilling compost or aged manure into the soil one month before planting and covering it with mulch can add even more nutrients to the soil.

Adding a bit of sand will encourage drainage if you cannot raise them on hills. 

zucchini plant
The female flower produces the zucchini after it’s pollinated

How to Grow Zucchini

Now that you have made the necessary preparations, you can start planting zucchini.

  1. Prepare the area. Work the soil with a gardening trowel or spade so it’s loose. Remove rocks, sticks, etc.
  2. Make slightly mounded hills approximately three inches by three inches.
planting zucchini
Planting rows of zucchini

How to Plant Zucchini from Seed

Plant two seeds per hole. Plant seeds one inch deep. Once they grow to two inches or when they have two true leaves, snip the weaker plant and keep the bigger, stronger plant. 

Plant seeds where you want them to grow. There is no need to transplant them unless you start them indoors.

How to Plant Zucchini from Starts

With starts, dig a hole a bit deeper and wider than their root balls. Loosen the plant from the container, and place the transplant in the hole.

The transplant needs enough soil to cover the root ball. Fill in with extra soil firming it lightly.

Make sure to plant each zucchini plant about 40 inches away from one another.

Watering

Like all plants, your zucchini plant will need some care. 

Courgette prefer moist soil, so water it heavily whenever it dries. It’s important to not let the soil get too soggy in order to prevent root rot. Planting on small hills or adding some sand should help with this issue.

Irregular watering can stress the plant and cause disease. 

Apply 1 – 2 inches of water per week. This help the soil stay moist about four inches down. Factor in rainfall. Consider using a soaker hose in order to water the plant under the leaves. It’s important to try to keep the leaves dry.

Make sure to check the soil more frequently when it starts developing fruit. Keep up with the consistent watering during the growth period.

Fertilizer

If you’ve used nutrient-rich soil to plant zucchini, then you won’t need to fertilize the plants until just before the flowers will bloom. Mix in a water soluble or granular fertilizer. Choose a basic 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 organic fertilizer.

If you aren’t able to amend the soil before planting, mix in some fertilizer before planting zucchini seeds or starts. 

zucchini plant from seed
Growing zucchini plant from seed

Companion Plants

If you have room in the garden, there are several plants which grow well together. You can grow zucchini with other squash, corn, and pole beans

Zucchini plants are heavy feeders. You’ll want to avoid planting them with potatoes.

Additionally, while zucchinis grow well with melons, they attract the same type of pests. You may consider keeping them apart to not attract the same types of pests and diseases. 

Again, remember zucchini plant spacing. They need space to thrive.

Pests and Disease

While they are among the easiest vegetables to grow, zucchini growing sometimes attracts pests. Watch out for squash vine borers. These squash bugs emerge in the summer to lay their eggs in squash plants like zucchini. They are moths. Hatchlings burrow into the plants to feed, which reduces water flow to the stems and kills your zucchini.

If you plant your courgette in mid-July, you can avoid squash vine borers. If you plant early, you can tightly wrap the stem bases with aluminum foil to prevent larvae from boring through.

Other pests include cucumber beetles which are small yellow beetles with spots or stripes.

If you live in an area with deer, be sure to cover your plants. They will eat the zucchini plants, including leaves, stems, and zucchinis.

Watch for fungal diseases which are common. Some zucchini plant diseases to watch out for include:

  • Cucumber Mosaic Virus
  • Blossom End Rot – caused by a calcium deficiency
  • Bacterial Leaf Spot
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Bacterial Wilt

Pollination

Helping with pollination may be necessary when growing zucchini.

You do not need two zucchini plants to produce fruit. This is because they are monoecious. They grow separate female and male flowers on the same plant. Therefore, you can grow just one plant if you want.

Zucchini plants often produce primarily male flowers, so the fruit will take a while to form due to the female blossoms not opening. The male flowers will attract pollinating insects to the region.

Zucchinis need male and female flowers to open simultaneously to set fruit. 

You may need to hand-pollinate if:

  • Your garden does not seem to attract bees and other pollinators
  • The plants are flowering but aren’t producing fruit

How to Pollinate Zucchini Plant

It’s best to hand-pollinate in the morning. The flowers will be open.

  1. Identify the male and female flowers.
    • The females will have a little bulb or ovary between the flower and the vine. This is the unfertilized fruit.
  2. Locate a male flower.
  3. Take a Q-tip or a small paintbrush and insert it into the male flower. Brush gently and swab some pollen.
  4. Dust the pollen from the male flowers onto the female ones.
  5. Repeat until you pollinated all the female flowers.

Once you have pollinated the female flowers, you can pick the male flowers. They are edible raw or cooked.

Do not pick the female flowers as these are the flowers which will grow zucchinis.

Zucchini Flowers

Female flowers are closer to the main vine than male flowers. You will see a bulb or ovary between the flower and the vine. This is the unfertilized fruit. It may be fuzzy. 

Male flowers will have only the stem and the flower.

golden zucchini plant
Golden zucchini plant

Harvesting Zucchini

Check the Days Until Harvest for the type you buy. Typically, mature fruits take 55 – 60 days to grow from seed.

They will be tasty from 3″ – 8″ long. You can grow zucchini to your preferred size, however, younger and smaller they are, the more tender they are. 

Being warm weather plants, they will produce in summertime. Harvest zucchini so the plant will use energy to grow more. Don’t leave them on the vine. The larger they grow, they more fibrous and/or watery they become.

Gently pick them, being careful to not disturb the plant. Use scissors or a sharp knife and cut one inch from the fruit.

Be sure to pick the fruits when the vines are dry. If they are wet, it’s easier to spread diseases.

Tips for Healthy Zucchini Plant 

Zucchini plants are fairly low-maintenance. To maximize growth and harvest, consider the following:

You will want to plant the seeds 4 – 6 weeks before the growing season to maximize yield. Be sure there is no chance of frost. 

Add a layer of mulch to prevent weeds and to contain moisture. This is especially important in dry climates. It will also help to stabilize soil moisture levels.

Make sure to remove weeds that appear as soon as possible. Try to pull them from the roots to prevent regrowth. Cut off shriveling or dead weeds.

Organic matter makes a strong fertilizer which adds nutrients to the soil. Fresh compost can keep the roots moist and cool to encourage growth. This will aid fruit production.

When male flowers bloom, apply a small amount of fertilizer. Then, fertilize occasionally during the harvest to increase the number of fruits.

There is no need to prune zucchini plants.

Consider also growing zucchini with other methods such as hydroponics and with straw bale gardening. Zucchini plants do well with these methods. 

Zucchini Plant Varieties and Types

Most common are green fruit but there are also golden and striped varieties. Check where you live to learn the recommended variety for your area. Popular types of zucchini to grow from seeds are:

  • Fordhook
  • Italian Ribbed
  • Black Beauty
  • Spineless Beauty
  • Tigress
  • Golden
  • Mid-East Clarimore
  • Cocozelle

Conclusion

Healthy plants are easy to grow when you follow these steps. It’s satisfying to pick and eat homegrown zucchini. There are so many ways to use them. They will add to the flavor of your meals.

You can cook, steam, roast and sauté this summer squash. You can also eat it raw. There is no need to peel it. You can grate it or spiral it and use it as noodles or in salads. They are good in baking too for treats like zucchini bread. 

If you don’t use it right away, you can store it for several days in the refrigerator crisper. Otherwise, you can freeze or dehydrate them.

If you are growing a vegetable garden for the first time, growing a zucchini plant is a way to produce lots of fruits. 

Overall, zucchini is one of the easy vegetables you can grow in your garden. You do not need a green thumb to grow them. As long as you prepare your garden plot and keep the plant hydrated and fertilized, you can grow gorgeous zucs all summer long.

When pollinated, they grow quickly and provide an abundant harvest with minimal care. 

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