Grow your own zucchinis

Cucurbita pepo

Zucchinis are highly satisfying plants to grow and I can distinctly remember the excitement of inspecting them each day as a kid and deciding which ones were ready to harvest. Sometimes it felt like they doubled in size overnight and I wondered if I watched them long enough if I might even get to see them grow in front of me!

Description

Zucchinis are a member of the Cucurbitacea family, along with squash, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons. They are quick growing annuals and have a bush habit. Large more mature zucchinis are referred to as marrows.

They are usually dark green, but may also be yellow or light green and they have a similar shape to a cucumber. There are a few cultivars with round or bottle shaped fruits.

Varieties of zucchinis

  • Black Beauty:  An early bearing variety with dark green fruit.
  • Cocozelle:  Dark green fruit with light stripes.
  • Golden:  Bright yellow cylindrical fruit.
  • Golden Arch Crookneck:  High yielding yellow fruit with arched neck picked at 15 centimetres.
  • Italian Light Green:  Light green fruit picked at 18 centimetres.
  • Romanesco:  Growing on a large vine, with grey-green fruit that have pale green flecks and prominent ribs. Plants develop large edible male flowers.
  • Rondo De Nice: Small round green fruit with mottled yellow patterning. Great flavour.
  • Yellow Straightneck:  Yellow club-shaped fruit picked at 15 centimetres.

Plant from seed or seedlings

You can grow your zucchinis from seeds or seedlings. I like to plants seeds in pots then plant them out when they have sprouted and I have my veggie beds ready. The ideal soil germination temperature is 20 degrees celcius. Be careful not to damage the roots when you transplant your seedlings. When people direct sow they often plant two seeds in a hole and then choose the healthiest seedling when it is young and pull the other out.

Provide rich well-drained soil 

Zucchinis like a rich, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter but ensure you don’t over fertilise them. A pH of around 6.5 is ideal. You can raise the beds if you need extra drainage.

Harvest edible flowers

Zucchini bear separate male and female flowers and pollination is assisted mainly by bees. If poorly pollinated, fruits will fall off and if partially pollinated fruit will develop unevenly. Female flowers grow on the ends of the fruit while male flowers grow directs on stems. Both can be harvested and can be stuffed, baked, sautéed, deep fried, or made into fritters.

Pests and diseases

Some common pests include cutworms, thrips, leafhoppers, aphids, and pumpkin beetle. Diseases such as powdery mildew and downy mildew can also be a problem. It’s best to water in the morning to give leaves a chance to dry out and if you need to water in the evening, avoid wetting the leaves.

Harvesting and storage

You will get your first fruit any time on from 6 weeks after planting and they will continue for up to 12 weeks. On account of their rapid growth you will need to pick every couple of days. Between 10 to 20 centimetres is the optimal size for fruit.

You can use this information to grow button squash as well which tastes very different homegrown. As a kid I always grew both yellow zucchinis and yellow button squash and I wanted to eat my veggies because I had grown them myself.

Which varieties are your favourite to grow?

 

 

 

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