Home & Garden Gardening

Grow Better Zucchini with These 5 Tips

5 Tips for Great Zucchini

A lot of gardeners will tell you that zucchini grows itself. Why else would there be a National Sneak Some Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Day? It’s true, zucchini is a prolific grower, but that doesn’t mean it can’t use a little help from the gardener. These 5 tips will help you get a more reliable harvest, throughout the season.

1. Plant in Hills

Whether you choose to buy seedlings or direct seed on your own, you should plant 2 - 3 plants close together.

In gardening, the term “hill” doesn’t actually refer to a raised mound. It means clusters of plants. The reason that’s important when growing zucchini is because squash flowers need to be pollinated multiple times, to form a viable fruit, and each flower is only open for one day. No pollination - no zucchini, Having multiple plants means a lot more flowers will be open on any given day, which greatly improves your chance of getting abundant zucchini.

Avoid Zucchini Pollination Problems

2. Pollination Problems

If the short life span of zucchini blossoms weren’t enough to overcome, you also need both male and female flowers open at the same time. Only female flowers will set fruit. The male flowers are there strictly for pollinating purposes. New zucchini plants tend to set a lot of male flowers at first. This can be very frustrating for gardeners because you see a lot of flowers blooming and no fruits forming.

Be patient. Once the plants get in gear, they will start setting flowers of both sexes and, thanks to the early male flowers, there should be plenty of pollinating insects in the area. You’ll know you have female flowers when you see tiny fruits directly behind the base of the flower.

If you’re really dedicated to your zucchini harvest, you can always take matters into your own hands. You can remove the male flowers and dust them onto the female flowers, to help ensure good pollination takes place.

Don’t waste those early male flowers. You can still pick them, dip them in batter, and fry the up for a great treat.

Succession Planting Zucchini

3. Succession Planting

Zucchini is a fast grower. I mean quick, quick, quick - 40-60 days from planting. You can plant it 2 or 3 times  mid-season and still have a big harvest. Since zucchini plants work so hard producing fruits, it’s only natural the plants will eventually give out. So it’s nice to have a fresh new crop coming in, just when you need it. Some gardeners feel the initial glut of zucchini is more than enough, but if you like a steady supply, succession planting is the way to go.

Luckily, zucchini is extremely easy to grow from seed. There’s no need to start seed indoors, week’s ahead of time. You can direct sow and expect to see germination within days. A second planting in mid-July and/or mid-August will grow even faster than a spring planting and should start producing in a little over a month.

4. Don’t Rush Your Planting

Zucchini does not tolerate frost or even cold temperature. You don’t gain anything from planting too early. Fruits that form during cold weather will have pitted skin from chilling injury. If you do plant early, use row covers to protect your plants at night, when the temperature dips near 65°F. Keep them handy in the fall too, to extend your harvest.

5. Foil Borers

Squash vine borers love zucchini as much as we do. The adults emerge from their winter hideout in the soil, sometime in late June to early July. One of their first tasks is to lay their eggs at the base of squash plants. When the eggs hatch, the larva burrow into the stem of the zucchini plants and start to feed. This cuts off the flow of water through the plant’s stem and can quickly kill your beautiful zucchini plant.

To avoid these pests you could outsmart them by not planting your zucchini until mid-July. If there are no zucchini plants in your garden, there is no reason for the vine borer moth to stop by and lay her eggs. This is doubly beneficial because once the larva finish feeding on the stem, they burrow into the nearby soil so that they can wake up in spring and lay their eggs near next season’s zucchini plants. Avoiding this cycle for one year can cut down on next year’s problem.

If you really want early zucchini, there is another way to foil this pest and that requires using - foil. You can wrap the base of each stem with some aluminum foil. Wrap around securely and the larva will not be able to bore through it.

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