Photo credit by Wally Hartshorn
You don't have to have a green thumb to grow one of the most popular green garden vegetables, which is zucchini. There really is no gardening trick to growing zucchini. In fact, zucchini is a great vegetable for first-time gardeners. All you need is a sunny spot, decent soil, a little know-how and you'll be harvesting your crop in a few weeks. But before you start collecting dozens of recipes, you'll need to know a bit about planting and growing zucchini.
The first thing you need to consider if you want to know how to grow zucchini is that the plant loves sun. That doesn't mean you have to pick a garden spot that gets a full sun twelve hours a day. But to get the best zucchini crop possible, you will need to locate your planting spot where they will get at least a half day of sunshine.
The plants will also need to have adequate water, be it from rainfall or hand watering. But because zucchini plants, like many other cucurbits that vine like squash, pumpkin and cucumber, are susceptible to several forms of mildew you have to resist the urge to over water them. You can't do much to control rainfall, but you can plant your zucchini where the soil drains well, is a bit elevated and isn't prone to runoff from buildings or hillsides.
Also, when watering with a hose or by hand, try not to get the leaves wet. Water so that the base and roots of the plant get wet and try not to water in the late evening because the cooler night air can trigger mildew growth on wet plants.
Once you've decided on a good planting spot for your zucchini, you can add a little all-purpose garden fertilizer if needed. If you aren't sure whether or not your soil needs fertilizing, you can get an inexpensive soil test kit at your local garden center or your local county extension office will usually test a soil sample for free.
You will also need to be absolutely sure that the danger of frost is past for your area. Zucchini plants, especially young ones, are easily killed by cold temperatures. So if you are starting the seeds early inside you don't have to worry so much, but if you are planting the zucchini seeds directly in the ground outside, you have to do it when the weather has warmed up for good in the spring.
Next, you need to make small hills of dirt spaced about three feet apart and sow three to five zucchini seeds per hill. Plant the seeds about an inch or two deep and water well once a week until the seeds germinate, which will take between ten to fourteen days. After the plants sprout, you can thin down to two or three per hill. It's best to transplant while the zucchini plants are about three or four inches tall. The zucchini will vine out and spread quite a bit, so you have to give them plenty of space.
The first zucchini should be ready to harvest in two to three months after sprouting. Pick the zucchini before they get too large, as they are usually their best when the size of a small cucumber. The blossoms are also edible and used in many recipes.
Besides the aforementioned mildew problem, your zucchini plants may be afflicted with wilt, blossom end rot (caused by not enough calcium in the soil), cucumber beetles, squash beetles and mites. If your zucchini do get bugged, you can use a mixture of a little dish soap in water sprayed on the plants or purchase an insecticide spray or dust at a garden center. If you do use the insecticide, be sure to read on the package how long to wait after spraying before harvesting.
Now that you know how to grow zucchini, get out there and plant some. Even if you don't have a great crop the first year, you'll have learned whether or not you picked a good garden spot, if the zucchini got enough sun or too much water and what pests bugged your plants. Growing zucchini isn't that hard, and in the process you may discover you do have a green thumb to go along with your green zucchini.