Learn How to Grow Zucchini in Your Home Garden. It's Quite Easy

How to Grow Zucchini
Zucchini, belonging to the squash family, is widely cultivated all over the world, and is a favorite plant among home gardeners. Here is a guide on how to grow zucchini in your garden.
Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo), which closely resembles a cucumber, is actually a fruit, though it has widespread culinary uses and is more commonly used as a vegetable, and always cooked without peeling the skin. It grows quickly, and is one of the most common plants you will find in a kitchen garden. It grows on dense, compact vines.
Even the flowers of this plant are edible, and when stuffed and fried, are popularly served as an appetizer in many countries. Low in calories and with a high water content, zucchini is rich in folate, potassium and vitamin A. Let us now look at how to cultivate and harvest this easy-growing fruit.
Climatic and Soil Conditions
Zucchini plants in farm
⥁ Zucchini prefers temperate conditions, but are particularly sensitive to very cold weather and frost. Spring is the ideal season, if you happen to plant when the weather is still cool, cover the area with clothes to trap the heat.⥁ This plant like plentiful sunshine, so choose a spot in your backyard or garden accordingly.
⥁ The plant thrives in loamy soil, especially soil that retains a lot of water, because it needs to be watered deeply for optimal growth.
⥁ The plant requires pollination, so if your garden is frequented by bees, your plants will flourish!
Growing and Harvesting Zucchini
Farmer spreading manure in field
⥁ To prepare the soil, dig and add lot of compost and manure so you get healthy plants. Make small mounds, 10 inches in height and 2 feet in diameter, in the soil. They should be spaced at least 4 feet apart from each other.
⥁ Take 6 seeds and insert them into the mound, no more than an inch deep. Water the seeds deeply, once a week.
Sprout of zucchini
⥁ When you notice the saplings begin to sprout and grow to a height of 3 inches and you see tiny leaves emerging, you must pull out the weaker plants, leaving only two or three plants in a mound. Snip these weaker plants off at ground level. Never yank them off the soil, or you may end up hurting the fragile roots of the remaining saplings.
Watering zucchini
⥁ Continue to water deeply as the plant grows, always near the roots. Irrigate with a steady trickle of water, so the water permeates all the way down to the roots, and the soil does not splash and get eroded. Never water the leaves, as moist leaves can fall prey to diseases.
⥁ In case it gets too hot, make sure you water more often, or the leaves may begin to wilt. Well watered soil will sustain the plants better.
⥁ Be alert as soon as the flowers begin to bloom, since that's a sign the fruits will also appear soon. As soon as the first zucchini appears, you can fertilize the soil, and irrigate it well straightaway. Or you can use a liquid fertilizer. At this stage, also note that it is important you water them more often, so the vines produce healthy fruits. Yellow fruits that fall of early are a sign that the plants received less water.
Man collecting zucchini in field
⥁ Wait for the plant to grow 6 inches in diameter, that is the perfect time to harvest them. They will continue to grow if not plucked. With the help of a sharp knife, cut the zucchini from the vine. The outer skin is rather thin, so be gentle when you cut them.
⥁ Harvest as often as you can, the more fruits you cut off the vine, the more the plant continues to produce them. Freshly cut zucchini can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Just make sure there is no moisture surrounding them
Things to Keep in Mind
Bug on zucchini flower
⥁ These plants are very prolific, so do not sow too many seeds, or you will end up with more zucchini than you could possibly consume. It is better not to have too many vines growing closely together as it can hamper air circulation and lead to an unhealthy increase in dampness that can harm the plants.
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⥁ Like other plants, these plants are also susceptible to pests, the most common being the squash vine borer, cucumber beetle, and the squash bug. The vine borers can cause a lot of damage, and in most cases, the plants die due to excess borer activity. Cucumber beetles prefer to feed on fruits, and hence can be seen when the plants have matured, whereas squash bugs attack the vines at the sign of the first bloom. Get rid of these pests by taking immediate action and spraying insecticides as soon you spot them, so they do not harm your zucchini vines. Be on the lookout for slugs. These creatures like to eat zucchini seedlings, so keep a watch as soon as you have sown the seeds.
Zucchini growing with flowers
⥁ Lack of bees, and hence, no pollination, is a common problem faced by many gardeners. This is due to overuse of insecticides and pesticides. If you are facing this problem, try hand pollination. With a small brush, gently brush the pollen laden end of male flowers, and rub it lightly over the female flowers. It is easy to distinguish between male and female flowers. Male flowers are bigger and narrower than their female counterparts, and do not have a fruit at the base.
⥁ Regular mulching keeps the weeds at bay. Apply a layer of mulch at the base of the plant, it also aids the soil in water retention.
⥁ Mold and mildew can form on the leaves if the plant receives excess water. Do not irrigate very often which can cause water-logging. If you notice mold forming, pluck off the leaves which have mold on them.
Zucchini seeds
⥁ You can store some seeds to cultivate the plant again next year. Let some zucchini grow longer, say a foot in length. To get good seeds, you must leave them on the vine long enough till they completely mature. Then cut them, slice them, and take out the seeds and rinse them well. Leave them on a plate to dry completely. Once dried, store the seeds in a paper bag for use next year.
⥁ You can also pluck the flowers of the zucchini vines and use them for cooking. They taste best when used as a garnish in salads, or stuffed with cheese and deep-fried in batter.
All in all, a very easy plant to cultivate, once you know the techniques. Instead of storing them, consume the zucchini when they are still fresh, for that is when they are the most flavorful. Use them in salads, as an ingredient in casseroles, or prepare zucchini bread at home. So think about planting them in your garden next spring, instead of buying them from the supermarket.
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