Grilled, cooked, or pickled: Zucchinis are once again enjoying greater popularity in many kitchens. But the green vegetable is also becoming increasingly popular in gardens. No wonder, after all, zucchini grows quickly, is relatively undemanding, and also tastes delicious. Nevertheless, not everything always goes smoothly when growing them. In these ten tips and tricks, we’ll tell you what you need to bear in mind and how you can achieve a successful harvest.
The right location is essential for a successful harvest, even though zucchini is not particularly demanding. The zucchini likes it best warm and sunny, preferably additionally protected from the wind. Zucchini likes its soil nutrient-rich and loose, so it’s worth digging up the bed before planting and incorporating a nutrient-rich soil, or compost. Zucchini (like its close relatives, squash) needs plenty of space to reasonably thriving. Allow 1.5 to 2 square feet per plant. This may seem like a lot at first, but the zucchini shows enormous growth so that the bed soon seems almost too cramped.
9. Pot or off to the bed?
When the ice saints are over in mid-May and no more late frosts are expected, the zucchini can be sown in the garden. Sunk 2 to 3 cm deep into the soil, the zucchini just need some time and sun to grow. But you can also start sowing zucchini before the ice saints. From the end of April, you can replant the little plants in a pot. To do this, the seeds are also pressed 2 to 3 cm into the soil and the pot is then placed in a warm, bright place. As soon as the zucchini seedlings get their first leaves, they can find their way into the bed. However, here too, wait for the icemen – late frosts young zucchini can not tolerate at all.
8. Everything just bought
If you don’t want to go to the trouble of sowing the zucchini or growing them indoors, you can also buy young plants from a specialty store. Here you can often find a wide variety of zucchini varieties, from green and long to yellow and round. It is recommended to buy varieties that are resistant to mildew. Furthermore, make sure to take home healthy and vigorous plants – only these will later bear a good harvest in the bed. You can plant the new plants as usual from mid-May.
7. Water march!
Regular watering is especially important for zucchini to produce enough flowers and fruit. About twice a week, the zucchini can get new water, on particularly hot days even more often. Water should always be poured directly onto the soil and not onto the leaves – wet leaves are much more susceptible to infection with powdery mildew. To mitigate a bit of the extreme evaporation in the summer, it may be a good idea to place a fleece under the plants. This has two other advantages: Weeds no longer have a chance, and the ripe fruits do not come into contact with the soil and get dirty.
6. Something for the big appetite
Zucchini are known to be heavy feeders, so they need a lot of nutrients to grow properly. Therefore, the bed should be worked with compost even before planting to create a good foundation. Sufficient nutrients are also important during growth for the harvest at the end: about every two weeks, the plants should be provided with some organic fertilizer. Organic fertilizers release nutrients evenly and provide the zucchini with optimal nutrition. Mineral fertilizer, on the other hand, should be used with caution: If the plants receive too much nitrogen, they become more susceptible to diseases.
5. Everything in moderation
Zucchini are relatively susceptible to stress and then form more male than female flowers. The problem with this is that only female flowers will eventually produce fruit, while the males are only responsible for pollination. So if more male flowers are formed, the harvest is significantly smaller in the end. But how can a plant be stressed? Drought or waterlogging, nutrient deficiency or overfertilization, anything that is not within the normal range stresses the plant, resulting in a low harvest. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy balance in all things.
As mentioned above, zucchini have male and female flowers. This ensures that there is an exchange of genes between different plants so that the plants’ offspring take on different characteristics from their two parents. In plain language, this also means that only pollinated, female flowers form fruits at all. To ensure that the female flowers are actually pollinated, insects are needed above all. To ensure that they find their way into your garden, there are a few tricks: leave a few corners in the garden as natural as possible to provide insects with a place to retreat, avoid chemical insecticides and give insects access to your plants by opening the windows of your greenhouse, for example.
Especially in wet, humid summers, even a bee-friendly garden may not be enough to ensure sufficient pollination of female flowers. Then only one thing helps manual labor. Here’s how you can easily pollinate the female flowers yourself. To do this, take a fully developed male flower (this is more long-stalked and, unlike female flowers, does not have a short thickening under the petals) and remove the petals. Then brush the stamen of the male flower over the stigma of the female flower. This allows multiple flowers to be pollinated. As soon as the petals begin to wilt and the ovaries swell, you should then remove the flowers altogether – otherwise, they are a welcome entry point for fungal diseases that cause young fruit to rot while still on the plant.
2. Harvest of zucchini
After six to eight weeks, the zucchini are then ready for harvest. Now, however, do not be restrained – regular harvesting promotes the formation of new flowers and thus increases the yield of fresh zucchini. However, when cutting the zucchini should not be completely ripe. The reason: with age, bitter substances can accumulate in the zucchini. This can be avoided by harvesting the zucchini early enough.
1. Beware, bitter!
As indicated above, it can happen that a zucchini suddenly tastes bitter. Now it is called: Hands off! The bitter taste is caused by the substance cucurbitacin, which is toxic to humans. In seeds from conventional producers, this substance is usually bred out, but it can always occur, especially with own seeds. Ornamental pumpkins grown near zucchini can also cause sudden cucurbitacin emergence. Ornamental squash naturally contains the substance and is closely related to zucchini. If zucchini is now pollinated by an ornamental squash, the resulting cross may contain the toxic bitter substance.