Zucchini is known in Europe as courgettes. This squash family member is best when picked very young. Bushes are quite prolific and the plant is ideal for containers. The shape is elongated and both green and yellow varieties are available. Young zucchini is excellent in salads while older varieties are better cooked.
Zucchini is a warm weather crop and will not tolerate frosts. It requires full sun to partial shade and will do well in almost any soil with good drainage. Zucchini is a heavy feeder and the addition of compost and well-rotted manure will greatly improve results. When flowers begin to form, you will want to side-dress with more manure. Keep the garden free of weeds which may harbor disease. Cultivate lightly so as not to disturb the shallow root structures.
Plant when soil has completely warmed. Plants can be started indoors 4-6 weeks ahead to speed harvest. To sow directly outdoors, place several seeds 1/2 inch deep in a wide, saucer shaped depression. Depressions should be 8 inches deep and excavated soil should form a rim around the depression. Leave 3 feet between these "hills". Thin to 3 plants per hill once the true leaves appear. Remove unwanted seedlings by cutting them off with scissors at ground level.
Try to keep the water off the leaves and foliage. Insufficient water will cause the fruit to fall off before it matures. Leaves will wilt during very hot weather, but will recover when watered.
Powdery mildew and mosaic virus are the main problems. Good preventative measures include not handling the vines when they are wet, planting in an area with good ventilation, and keeping the garden clean and free of weeds and debris. Most insects that attack zucchini can be controlled by spraying with a good herbal or natural insecticide. See our recipes for herbal insecticides.
Pick zucchini early and often. Fruit that is 4-6 inches long will have the best flavor, and picking encourages more fruit.