Plant Profile: Zucchini
Zucchini, a type of summer squash, is one of my favorite things to grow. It’s a low maintenance bush-type plant, easy to grow from seed and tends to be very productive. Above is the standard, no-frills zucchini which will take about 50 days to mature and start producing. To the right is another kind of zucchini called Baby Round; I got the seeds this year from Botanical Interests. These take 45 days to mature. Maybe next year I’ll branch out again and try something like Patty Pan Squash.
These plants do need a lot of room – each plant will eventually take up a circular space about 3-4′ in diameter. They don’t seem to need a lot of water and do well during dry spells. Very soon in the season you will see blooms appear, but there won’t be any zucchini that form. Don’t worry – these are the male flowers and soon female flowers will bloom, producing zucchini.
Pests and Problems
I personally haven’t encountered many pests that bother my zucchini plants. Earwigs like to hang out in the blossoms and munch on the leaves, but those are more annoying (and gross!) than anything. They can harm the seedlings if you have planted seeds in the ground, of course. I find that setting out a shallow dish filled with water and a piece of bread inside tends to shrink the population, since they like yeast and will climb into the dish and drown. Beer can be used as well, apparently!
Update: Wade in the comments has some info about squash bugs. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid them so far, but in case you haven’t, he says “Washing them out of hiding spots near the base of the plant with water, then squishing them works, but it’s not the most pleasant.” Yeah, that doesn’t sound like much fun… if anyone else has experience with them and ways to deal with them, please share!
One thing to keep in mind: make sure you harvest the squash before they get too big because they won’t taste very good! Anything from 6-8″ long for standard zucchini will be just about right (I picked the zucchini in the top picture soon after taking the photo). Near the end of the season, you may feel like giving up (I usually do) and you’ll end up with baseball bat-sized zucchini!
Using and Storing the Harvest
You may hear people joke that giving your neighbors your extra zucchini can be seen as an act of aggression! While the situation may not be that serious, zucchini don’t store well in their original form, so it’s a good idea to have lots of plans for using your harvest for cooking and baking (and then you can give that away).
Books like The Classic Zucchini Cookbook are a good place to start, as well as sites like Martha Stewart. Zucchini blooms are edible too, and can be fried or cut up to use as garnish for salads. Follow my Edible Gardening board on Pinterest to see more of my resources for using what you harvest.
Check out the progression my zucchini plants have gone through already this year. The first photo is from June 20, the second is June 29, and the third is from July 5! Truly amazing.