Growing Zucchini

A Quick Guide to Growing Zucchini

            Gardening can be a very rewarding experience, especially when an easy, high yield crop is harvested; growing zucchini is just such a crop.  Not only is the plant easy to grow and produces in large amounts, it is also a nutritious and delicious vegetable that is versatile to use.

            Members of the same plant family as pumpkins and squash, zucchini plants are vine plants.  They will need to have plenty of room to spread out as they grow.  They can also be trained to climb upwards to save on gardening space; simply plant them next to a fence or trellis.  As the plants begin to vine out, place the tendrils close to the structure and keep them twining upwards.  Soon, the vines will begin to climb on their own.  This method also keeps the vegetable off the ground, where moisture and garden insects can ruin them.

            Preparing the garden are is easy.  Make sure the area will receive 6 to 8 hours of sun daily.  Zucchini can grow in most any soil type; fertilizer may be needed for soil highly deficient in nutrients.

            The easiest way to start is by purchasing seedlings in the garden center of choice.  The seedlings are generally sold in trays of four to six plants, which will be more than enough for a first time gardener.  Because growing zucchini will produce abundant yields, it is best to begin with the fewest number of plants possible.  The seedlings should be planted in either hills or rows at least 2 feet apart due to the traveling habit of the vines.  Water the plants regularly to ensure the small plants get the best start possible.    

            Zucchini plants can also be started by seed.  After the danger of frost is past, prepare the garden spot.  If the soil is poor in nutrients, a fertilizer should be mixed in with the soil before planting.
Seeds can be planted in hills or rows, but hills will provide good drainage for the plants.  Sow four or five seeds per hill or space seeds a few inches apart if making rows.  Water regularly, keeping the soil moist until the seeds sprout; afterwards, water every two or three days.  Once the little seedlings make their appearance and reach a height of about 2 inches, thin the plants; choose two or three of the strongest and hardiest of them to continue growing and discard the remainder.

            While growing zucchini is one of the easiest garden tasks a gardener can undertake, there are many potential problem areas they can encounter, as well.  One of these is insect invasion that can threaten the crop.  Some of the most common bugs to frequent zucchini plants are spider mites, aphids, cut worms, squash bugs, cucumber beetles and vine borers.  Most gardeners agree that it is best to begin a regimen of insect control before any invasion begins.  For organic gardeners, an insecticidal soap can be applied on a regular basis.  There are also many commercial pesticides available that will effectively control bugs.    

            Another threat to the developing plant will be disease.  Any garden plant is susceptible to disease, and zucchini is no exception.  Mosaic virus, bacteria wilt, powdery mildew, downy mildew and yellow mosaic virus are some of the issues that may appear on zucchini plants and kill them before any vegetables can be harvested.  To prevent these diseases, water by irrigation to keep moisture off the leaves and stems, space plants adequately to allow good airflow and ensure that the plants are receiving plenty of sun.

            Harvest the zucchini when the vegetable is about 6 to 8 inches long.  Numerous recipes for using this versatile vegetable are available; soups, side dishes, main dishes, breads; even desserts.  Have fun and experiment while enjoying the fruits of your labor.

            Growing zucchini will be a rewarding experience.  Easy to grow with great results, this vegetable will be a successful start for the beginner gardener.