Zucchinis or courgettes are arguably the most popular kind of summer squash grown in home gardens. This is largely because it is easy to grow, it can be prolific and the fruit is both healthy and versatile. Naturally, if a person is growing zucchinis, though, they probably want to have the best crop possible. Thankfully, there are a few tips that can help to ensure a robust zucchini crop.
Before getting to the tips, there are two points that should be clarified, though neither have to do with having a robust crop. First, what we consume as zucchinis are indeed fruits, though they are often sold in the vegetable section in stores. The seeds are contained inside edible flesh, which makes them fruit, not vegetables.
Second, there can be a little confusion over the difference between summer squashes and winter squashes, particularly since both are grown in the summer. Simply put, summer squash has thin skin and winter squash has thick skin. The thickness of the skin has a lot to do with how long the harvested fruit will last. Thus, Hubbard squash, acorn squash and pumpkins are all winter squashes. Zucchini, crook neck and spaghetti squash are all summer squashes. Zucchinis usually don’t keep well, so they usually need to be used before winter. Thus, they are summer squashes. This also means that having a robust crop of these fruits is desirable.
For the best crop of zucchinis, they should be planted in rich, well-draining soil. This is true whether they are grown in the garden or in a container. Although they can grow even in average dirt, they tend not to do well in clay based soil, because it is difficult to get the water down to the roots and once it is there, the roots can become waterlogged. This can kill the zucchini plant and at the least, stresses the plant so it struggles to even survive.
Zucchini plants are sun and heat loving, but since they have such large leaves, they loose a substantial amount of water when the sunshine and heat are optimal. To counter this, zucchinis should be deeply watered. Deep watering encourages the roots to grow deeper, where they are less effected by the heat and sun, yet giving the plant enough water to make up for the loss of moisture due to transpiration. Early in the year, the plant can do well with about an inch of water per week, but as the heat increases, the amount of water that is given should also increase.
The best idea is to water at ground level, too, rather than using a sprinkler. Water on the leaves can act as magnifying glasses in the sunshine and this can burn the leaves. Ideally, they should be watered in the early morning, too. This allows more of the water to soak down rather than evaporating off.
As already mentioned, zucchinis love sunshine. It is best to plant them in a location that gets plenty of sun. It is okay to have them where they will get some shade from the afternoon sun, though, since this is usually the hottest and can increase the transpiration rate.
Even if the soil is reasonably rich, zucchinis benefit by side dressing with finished compost or feeding them balanced fertilizer. The NPK of the fertilizer, if it is store bought, should be 16-16-16 or similar. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizer because this will usually cause the plant to produce more leaves that blossoms and fruit. If liquid fertilizer is used, feeding the plants a cupful of diluted fertilizer every two weeks can be helpful.
Once the blossoms start opening, pay close attention to the number of bees and wasps that are visiting them. If there are very few bees or wasps going to the flowers, the female blossoms may need to be pollinated by hand, such as by using a Q-tip.
It may sound a little strange, but harvesting fruits off the plant encourages the plant to produce more. Once the plants start setting fruit, they should be checked at least every other day or more often, because the fruits can grow quite rapidly.
With just these few tips, it is amazing how many zucchini fruit each plant can produce. Two plants can usually be enough to furnish a small family with fresh zucchini and to still have enough left over for canning or freezing. Once they are preserved, the zucchini can be enjoyed even in the winter, though it is a summer squash.