Basics of Growing Zucchini and Summer Squash Outdoors
- 31 Mar, 2021
A vegetable that grows so readily there is actually a national day for it, zucchini is a must-have in the garden. How else are you going to celebrate National Sneak Some Zucchini Into Your Neighbor's Porch Day? It's truly incredible how much fruit (yes, it's technically a fruit!) one zucchini or summer squash plant can produce. We have some tips for you on how to get even more out of a plant, too. There are many fun varieties out there, so if you're not a fan of the classic plain green or yellow types, check out the other ones we offer.
How To Grow Zucchini, Step by StepSummer squash and zucchini are sun-loving plants that grow easily outdoors after all the danger of frost is gone. The seeds can be started indoors or direct-sown in the garden. The smaller, more compact varieties also grow readily in large containers. So, even if you don't have a traditional garden, you can still grow zucchini and summer squash. For 2-3 people, just a few plants will be plenty.
- Plant all squash varieties in full sun.
- Sow the seeds 1" deep and 2-3' apart to ensure they have adequate space to spread out. The stems get big!
- Water thoroughly and regularly throughout the season. Zucchini doesn't like dry soil or drought. Also, only water at the base of the plant; never water from above. Zucchini leaves are highly susceptible to powdery mildew, which occurs with wet leaves and poor airflow between plants.
- In a couple of months, you'll see giant flowers bloom. A squash produces male and female flowers, which are both needed for pollination. Bees and other pollinating insects will usually take care of this for you, but if there is a lack of them around, you can do it yourself. Use a paintbrush to transfer pollen from the male flower into the female one. For more tips on how to do this and tell the two flowers apart, check out this great guide.
- Once the plants are pollinated, fruits will develop quickly. The male flowers make great eating – only pick the male ones since the female flowers are integral to the zucchini fruit development.
- Pick zucchini and summer squash while it is young and tender. Also, the more you pick, the more that will grow. If fruits are left on the plants, they become huge baseball-bat-sized monstrosities that don't taste great. And, the plant is expending energy to create huge fruit and not develop new ones. Check the plants every day or every other day at most during peak growth.
- To harvest zucchini and summer squash, cut the fruits at the stem. Never yank them off, as they may uproot the whole zucchini plant because it has a shallow root system.
Three Keys To Even More Productive Zucchini Plants
- Instead of letting the plants branch out, set up a trellis for them, so they climb upwards. Some zucchini cultivars are more vining than others, and these are ideal for upward growth. This gives you more space to grow other plants and opens up the garden to more vegetables. Set up stakes or a trellis around the zucchini when it is young and easier to manage.
- Prune the lower stems off the plant to encourage bigger and more robust growth. The lower branches don't produce much, and they sap energy from the rest of the zucchini. These stems are hollow until they meet with the stem of the plant, which is solid. Cut off the branches right at the base, so there is no hollow stem remaining. If any hollow part is left, bugs or disease might take up residence.
- If your zucchini plants do get powdery mildew, it's okay! It's a widespread disease, and while it will kill your plants, there are ways to slow it down so the plants will still continue to produce. Spray the leaves with a mixture of water and vinegar to keep the mildew at bay.
Our Favorite Zucchini and Summer Squash Varieties
- Cocozelle - A unique Italian heirloom zucchini, this plant produces dark green fruits with thin white stripes.
- Tatume - A round green summer squash, similar to zucchini in taste. An interesting variant that will have all the neighbors confused when they see it on their porch!
- Black Beauty - The classic zucchini that never fails. If you're looking for reliability and hoards of zucchini, Black Beauty rarely disappoints.
- Scallop Yellow - This heirloom yellow squash is a type of patty pan squash. It produces flattened and slightly rounded fruits, like a small pan.
- Golden Zucchini - A wonderfully flavored yellow zucchini that grows abundant straight-necked fruit. This variety is great for smaller spaces or container planting.