Although this slender summer squash (Cucurbita pepo / Cucurbitaceae) is a bit sensitive to cold, growing zucchini is still a bit of a breeze. In fact, this plant is so prolific that a few zucchini plants can probably supply a family with more than enough of this tasty vegetable for themselves and a neighbor or two. But, in the event that you’ve never tried growing it before, here’s everything you need.
How to Grow Zucchini
- For an early harvest, plant zucchini squash seeds indoors 3-4 weeks before your last frost date. (Although there’s really no need to rush to squeeze in an early harvest. Once this squash is in full-growth mode, you’ll be growing zucchini at an alarming rate!)
- Zucchini (and squash in general) does not transplant well. To minimize transplant loss, start seeds in 4-inch-plus biodegradable pots that will allow you to transplant seedlings without disturbing roots.
- Germination soil temperatures range from 75-95°F, so keep your zucchini seeds in warm, fertile soil.
- Keep soil damp to moderately moist during germination but not too wet (otherwise seeds will rot).
Tips for Growing Zucchini
While the most important thing to know when learning how to grow zucchini is probably that it’s a cold-sensitive vegetable that needs temperatures well above 65°F to flourish, there are a few other tricks you might want to keep in mind. For instance:
- Plant zucchini in full sun and, if night temperatures drop below 65°F, use cloches or row covers to retain heat.
- Growing zucchini are prey to a number of serious garden pests, the most common of which are squash vine borers and squash bugs. Using homemade garlic spray pesticides can help prevent infestation problems and learning how to control powdery mildew can also be beneficial.
- While you need to be on the lookout for harmful bugs and garden pests, don’t get overzealous: Zucchini are monoecious and need beneficial insects (like bees and other good garden bugs) to pollinate and produce fruit.
- Choose the right size planter. For deep-rooted plants like zucchini and summer squash, use a planter that is at least 16″ deep.
Harvesting Summer Squash
I hope you like harvesting. A lot. The key to keeping zucchini productive is harvesting young, harvesting small, and harvesting often. In fact:
- Once your zucchini plant starts producing fruit, check it daily. Fruits left on the vine too long become flavorless and woody.
- Pick zucchini squash when they’re 4-5 inches long, or even a bit earlier. (The bigger the zucchini, the less flavorful and tender the flesh.)
- Even with daily harvesting, zucchini plants start to decline after 4-5 weeks. If you’re looking for high-quality growth all summer long, try succession planting every few weeks for a month or so.
For growing specifications for growing zucchini (like preferred soil pH, planting depths and germination rates), check out the Gardening Guides page.