Zucchini Growing Tips & Plant Care

Zucchini plants are a short growing season crop ready to pick from in 60 days. After that 60 days they will produce for a 3-4 week period. Their growing season is so short that many of us are able to get in two zucchini plant harvest in one season.

To check how long the growing season is where you live check out this last expected frost date tool.

Zucchini’s are well known in the gardening community for their ability to produce large fruit quickly. And the more fruit you pick, the faster the plant produces more fruit! With the potential for such high yield, how do you make sure you’re truly getting the most out of your zucchini plants?

Zucchini is a go-to crop for gardeners since it is easy to care for, grows quickly, and rarely disappoints. But just like all crops, zucchini plants have preferred growing conditions. By discovering and fostering the best growing conditions, you’ll find you have a plant that produces not just edible fruits, but a completely edible plant.

And the better the growing conditions, the healthier and more productive your zucchini plants will be. So let’s get into the most common zucchini care questions and make sure you’re getting the most out of this high-yield crop.

Does Zucchini Need a Trellis?

Zucchini grows naturally into a bush or semi-bush plant so it does not need a trellis but there are lots of pros to growing them on a trellis. Zucchinis growing on a trellis will have more air circulation, sunshine, easier harvesting, and keep the zucchinis off of the ground.

Some varieties are more bushy and compact and the semi-bush spread out a little more. Semi-bush varieties will do better on a trellis. Zucchini plants do have tendrils that will wrap around support but they are not strong enough to securely support themselves and they must have garden ties to stay on the support system.

Zucchini plants belong to the same family as melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, and other species of gourds and squashes. While these crops do not require a trellis, there are specific benefits that come along with training your crop to grow vertically.

Vertical growth patterns have many benefits for the zucchini plant and fruit health, especially when it comes to mildew and other moisture-related problems.

By keeping the plant up off the ground, air flow increases and the risk of mildew becomes much less of a threat. Growing summer squash on a trellis also means zucchini aren’t sitting on the ground as they grow. This greatly reduces the risk of rot, and squash bugs and other garden pests no longer have as many places to hide.

For small-scale and backyard gardens, growing zucchini vertically is a practical option. This helps growers save space, while also creating more available space for new plants to grow.

Another benefit for the grower occurs at harvest time. Anyone who has grown zucchini knows that it is pretty easy to miss a few fruits, which then grow into squash giants that aren’t as good for eating. When growing on a trellis, growers gain much more visibility and are more likely to spot ripe fruits without turning over each and every leaf.

Plant your zucchini near the trellis. As it grows in length, tie the top of the plant to the trellis. The plant may benefit from additional support as it grows, but it will begin to vine on its own over time. As it produces fruit, you’ll notice it is easier to harvest, since the leaves no longer easily hide the squash.

You might also notice the zucchini plant is healthier overall. Now that your plant is getting more airflow and sunshine, it will grow faster, healthier, and produce more fruit throughout the season.

Do You Need Two Zucchini Plants To Produce Fruit?

Technically, you do not need two zucchini plants to produce fruit. Zucchini plants, like other squash varieties, produce both male and female flowers on the same plant. While you only need one plant to produce fruit, the more plants you have, the better your chances for pollination and fruit production.

Zucchini plants are “what is moneocious” , if you’re on the TV show Jeopardy. Moneocious plants mean that the plant has both male and female flowers on one plant so only one plant can produce zucchini.

There are two kinds of monoecious plants – those that produce flowers with both male and female parts (like strawberries), and those that have male and female flowers (like zucchini). 

For plants with distinct male and female flowers, the role of pollinators becomes very important. Since the blossoms cannot pollinate themselves, zucchini growers should be sure that they have a healthy amount of insect activity in the garden, primarily bees, or are ready to help fruit grow by pollinating the summer squash themselves.

The male flowers appear on the zucchini plant about 1 week before the female flowers. After the female flowers appear a zucchini will be ready to pick in 4-8 days.

The male flowers have thin stems leading up to the flower and the female zucchini flowers have a long cylindrical shaped miniature zucchini that is actually the ovary of the flower that will become a zucchini once the flower is pollinated.

How Long Will a Zucchini Plant Produce?

A zucchini plant will produce for a 3-4 week period starting around the 40 day mark after sprouting. A zucchini plant will produce 5-10 lbs. of zucchini in that 3-4 week period. Because zucchini is such a fast growing crop you most likely live in an area where you have the option of successively planting and getting two zucchini crops in one growing season.

Zucchini, also known as summer squash, grows and produces the most during the hot summer months. Planted later zucchini plants will continue to produce fruit until the first frost.

Zucchini plants are notorious for producing fruit almost exponentially, as long as fruit is being harvested. So, if you plan on harvesting young zucchini, you should plan on harvesting frequently. However, even harvesting mature zucchini fruits will encourage the plant to continue producing throughout the summer.

However, pests can damage your zucchini crop. Squash vine borers are particularly infamous for hindering crop production. As long as these pests are kept at bay, you can expect to have plenty of squash to pick before winter.

Can You Grow Zucchini From Scraps?

It’s all the rage to grow plants from kitchen scraps. This is easy to do with veggies like green onions, potatoes, lettuce, and even fennel and carrots. With these veggies, you can more or less stick the scraps in the ground or in a cup of water and they’ll continue to grow. But what about zucchini? 

As far as I know you cannot grow zucchini from scraps. You can take a zucchini and stick it in the ground and eventually a zucchini plant will probably grow from the seeds inside the zucchini.

Can You Grow Zucchini From Store Bought Zucchini?

You can grow zucchini from seeds found inside a store bought zucchini but I don’t recomemmend it. The problem is that most zucchinis that you buy will be a hybrid variety and seeds from hybrid varieties are not stable.

Hybrid varieties are made from two different varieties being crossed. Farmers that grow fields specifically for zucchini seeds will have fields of zucchini with two different varieties in it. One variety might be male sterile so that only pollen from one of the varieties will populate that field.

Seeds grown from these varieties might produce sterile male flowers that don’t produce pollen or they may revert back to being virile and produce pollen that grows zucchinis.

Either way it’s better to either buy zucchini that’s an heirloom variety, meaning the seeds came from only one variety in the field, or to buy hybrid seeds from a distributor that has seeds you know will produce well.

If you still want to grow zucchini from seeds inside a store bought zucchini here’s how to do it.

First off, hybrid species of summer squash do not generally grow well from harvested seeds. These species include Dunja, Gadzukes, Gourmet Gold, and Patio Star, just to name a few.

Stick with heirlooms such as Black Beauties, Round De Nice, or Fordhooks, and organic if you can find them. These zucchinis have the best chance of giving you harvestable, germinating seeds.

Scoop the seeds out of your zucchini scraps. Then, select seeds that are fully developed. If they are translucent, the seeds probably won’t germinate. Wash the seeds so they no longer have any zucchini flesh on them, and dry with a paper towel.

Let the seeds dry for a few days. Once the seeds are fully dry, they are ready to be planted. Hopefully, you’ll see some sprouts in just one or two weeks.

Zucchini Plant Falling Over

A zucchini plant falling over is not a good thing. It can be caused by wind, pests & disease, nutrient deficiencies, or overwatering.

You can stake a zucchini plant to hold it up if need be with bamboo posts and garden ties but you’ll need to identify the cause of the problem.

Nutrient deficiencies will cause plants to turn yellow or a lighter green than they could be. Overwatering is a problem if there are water puddles at the base of the plants hours after watering. Pests and disease are easy enough to spot.

Are Zucchini Leaves Edible?

You can definitely eat zucchini leaves. They’re actually one of the mildest greens I’ve ever had. Similar to spinach but even more mild. Last year my dad and I followed a recipe from an African friend, I forgot which country she came from, and it turned out great.

It was squash leaves, with tomato, and peanut butter sautéed in a frying pan. It was that simple and the taste was very good and I know it was full of nutrients.

In fact, the entire zucchini plant is actually edible when you get right down to it. Some parts of the plant can be eaten raw, while other parts can be fried, grilled, steamed, or prepared in many other ways. Even the spikey stems can be prepared so that they are not only palettable, but delicious. 

Young zucchini leaves are a great addition for any dish that calls for leafy greens. They have a mild flavor and work well in quiches, spanakopita, stir fry, risotto, soups…they even work well in salads if the leaves are very tender. Not only are they delicious, eating them is also good for the plant’s overall health.

Trimming excess leaves for eating helps more sunlight reach the center of the plant, which promotes fruit growth and development. So not only are you harvesting a healthy leafy green, you’re also encouraging more tasty squash.

When choosing parts of the zucchini plant to eat, you should generally choose younger, fresher sprouts. This recommendation applies to the fruits as much as it does the leaves or stems. As parts of the plant age, they become tougher and more bitter and just don’t make for good eating. The best parts of the plant for eating are the smaller young zucchini fruits, vibrant leaves, blossoms, and even small stems.

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