Zucchini is an excellent plant for beginners. They are sturdy, easy to grow, require little maintenance and most of all: they give you so much food. If you look after your zucchini, it will keep producing until the first frost hits. I can highly recommend them to anyone no matter how much or little space you have. They can even be grown on balconies if you have the space for a planter. You can, of course, buy them as little seedlings in well-sorted garden centres, but the cheapest and best way to get them is through buying seeds. So here is my guide on how to grow zucchini from seed.
How to germinate zucchini seeds?
Zucchini seeds are not fussy. Plant them about 2.5cm (1 inch) deep into the damp soil. All they require are steady temperatures and humidity. The easiest way to do that is getting a propagator. It's very nice to have if you grow a lot and they can be used for years. I have had the best success with this dome propagator. It has a good size and allows you to regulate airflow because you can open the little vents as needed. Also, the transparent lid allows seeing the seedlings without having to open it and let warmth out.
These starter trays work well with the size of the dome. I manage to fit 6 whole ones into it and cut one tray down to the size of a 2 * 2 segment for optimal use of space. What I Iove about these trays is they come with plant labels which are a great little addition if you are just starting out with gardening. You can also use jiffy pellets or pots to start your seeds. They require less space which means you can start a lot more seedlings. If you are new to gardening, jiffy pellets are small hard disks that swell up when watered. I think they are great, but if you prefer a traditional approach, then you can stick to the starter trays with soils instead. It is all about personal choice.
Usually, I plant two seeds per pot or jiffy pellet. Zucchini has a very high germination rate, so it is very likely that all germinate, but I like to keep the odds in my favour. If all seeds germinate, thin them to one per pot or pellet. It seems ruthless, but it is essential if you want healthy plants to produce the maximum amount of zucchinis. It's best to do that with a small scissor by cutting the top of the smaller plant and leave the larger one to grow. If you do not thin them, they will be smaller than they could get because their roots will tangle and fight for nutrients.
When can I move my zucchini outside?
Zucchini is best planted outside when the temperatures reach a constant level of 15 °C to 20 °C (60 °F - 70 °F) during the day. As a rule of thumb that usually happens one month after the last frost in spring.
How much space do zucchini plants need?
Make sure you keep a decent amount of space between your plants. Zucchini plants have large foliage; they need space so plant them at least 60cm (2ft) apart. There are two ways of growing them. Let them grow on the ground where they will spread and cover a large area or let them grow vertical like you would do it with cucumbers. It works in limited spaces like small gardens or even balconies. If your zucchini is growing in the middle of a yard or a pot, you might want to get a freestanding trellis. Opt for steel ones since the plant will get heavy over time. If you grow them close to a fence or wall, then you can opt for trellis netting. I had success with both versions but if I had to choose I would go with the freestanding trellis in smaller spaces because it allows for more airflow.
Can I plant zucchini in pots? Where to plant zucchini in the garden?
Zucchini plants are not very fussy. Grow them where ever you have space that has at least 8-10 hours of sun. I have grown them in pots on a small balcony and the garden. I planted them in partial shade; I planted them in the sun. I had them grow on top of a garden shed that had a very sturdy roof. There is this one time when I let a plant take over the backyard. Sadly I have no pictures of my balcony and the zucchini I grew there. I lost those pictures with one of my external hard drives during a move, but I still have pictures of the zucchini that I let grow rampant in my backyard in England 5 years ago. Just look at how huge it got. Admittedly it stopped me from adequately moving the lawn, but the upside was an abundance of zucchini until the end of autumn.
How to take care of zucchini plants?
Water is the key, Zucchini grows very quickly and produces fruit at a very steady pace. The plant will need all the water it can get but don't go the lazy route by turning on a sprinkler. That is the one thing that could harm your plant. Water the plants manually. Use a soaker hose or take a regular garden hose and place it under the leaves. Zucchini easily develops powdery mildew when watered from above. It manifests in a white layer that looks like someone scattered powdered sugar on them.
How long does it take to grow zucchini?
It depends on the climate and how big the zucchini plant was once you moved it into the garden or a larger pot. Generally, you can expect your first harvest 30 - 50 days from the moment you plant your zucchini. While you wait, you can enjoy the big flowers of the plant and keep a little picture diary as I do it. I take a picture every day until the first harvest, and it never ceases to amaze me how incredibly quick this plant grows and how many fruits it can handle at once.
When to harvest zucchini?
It might seem like an unnecessary question for some, but it is not. It is best to harvest zucchini while they are on the smaller side. Once they grow large, zucchini gets a spongelike texture which is not very pleasant to eat. Keep cutting them when they are medium sized and firm. That goes for both the green and the yellow variety. Never tear a zucchini off the plant, always cut it. Even though the plant is giant and looks sturdy, you can damage it severely if you try to tear or pull a zucchini off it.
How to eat zucchini?
Well, this one is easily answered. Since zucchini can be eaten raw, you can eat it any way you please. It goes with pretty much any flavour and can be used from cold salads, bbq zucchini skewers to sweet bread and brownies. Oh yes. Zucchini is a great way to add moisture to baked goods. It has a quite neutral taste when cooked and is very nutrient dense. Zucchini has very few calories due to its high water content and provides you with a wide range of nutrients ranging from a high amount of vitamin C to potassium.
To have a visual taste of it, here are some pictures of dishes that contain or feature zucchini.
If you do try to grow them, let me know how it went! Leave a comment and feel free to tag your pictures on Instagram with #gloriathegreedyvegan so I can find them.
Grilled Zucchini Ribbons through The Greedy Vegan.