Growing Zucchini can be rewarding as it is one of those plants that are ‘easy to grow’ with minimal fuss if started off right. They are also fast growers which makes them a good choice for gardening with kids as they can see the results quickly. In Kenya, Zucchini is also known as Courgette or Baby Marrow. They also grow well in containers and raised beds.
Tip #1) Ground Preparation
Zucchini prefers to grow in the warm season so ensure your timing is before or after the cold season. For Kenya, the cold season is normally between June and August.
They also grow best in rich, well-drained soil with an ideal PH of 6.0 – 6.8. To achieve this, add compost or well-rotted manure to your soil.
Tip #2) Seed Starting
The seeds can be sown indoors in seed trays using a seed starting media and then transplanted when the soil is warm.
They can also be sown directly to the soil and thus reduces the risks and challenges associated with transplanting plus it saves time. Sow 3 – 4 seeds per hole that are 2cm deep, 50 – 60cm apart and in rows 100-120cm apart.
Water each planting hole thoroughly when you plant the seeds and thereafter ensure to keep the site moist but not wet.
Germination takes between 7-14 days.
When the seedlings are about 3 inches high, you can thin the weak ones but leave at least 2 – 3 hardy plants per spot. Growing 2 – 3 zucchini plants per hole as a cluster of plants helps in pollination. Zucchini are pollinated through the flower so they can form fruit. But the flower only opens once a day, which is not always enough time for pollination. So growing a cluster of Zucchini allows for the opening of more flowers in the day and a higher chance of pollination and more fruit.
Tip #3) Many Flowers, No Fruit? No Worries.
So you have planted in clusters, you have many flowers but no fruit? No biggie. You see, Zucchini need both female and male flowers opening at the same time for pollination to occur. But when the plant is young, they tend to produce only male flowers and will not produce fruit. But do not be alarmed. Take this opportunity to pick the flowers and eat them. Yes, Zucchini flowers are edible. You can fry them up and enjoy a tasty treat.
How do you tell the difference between a male and female flower?
A female flower has tiny fruits directly behind the base of the flower. Be sure the check this before you go eating the vital part of the plant.
You can also choose to ‘assist’ in the pollination by taking the male flower and dusting the pollen onto the female flower. And this, folks, is how Zucchini babies are made.
Tip #4) Mind the Water and Weeds
2 pet peeves for Zucchini are overhead watering and weeds. Always water around the plant and avoid overhead watering as wet leaves attract diseases such as powdery mildew.
Zucchini is a heavy feeder and weeds that will be competing for the same food are unwanted guests. It is advisable to mulch the area to avoid weeds.
Tip #5) When the bugs bite
Even the best gardens to encounter some bugs once in a while. Squash vine borer is one bug that loves Zucchini. The symptoms that show your Zucchini are under attack are:-
- The leaves may start to wilt
- There are holes at the base of the plant accompanied by orange-yellow “dust-like” droppings
- The stem starts to rot (Borers tend to feed the inside of the stem)
A squash vine borer is a moth but it starts its attack when it is at the larvae stage. At this stage, it has a fat white wrinkly body with a brown head. The moth (adult) has a black body with an orange marking. When you spot the moth, then check for eggs because it is likely that it will lay some eggs around the base of the plant. The eggs are brown, oval and tiny (this is where your microscope comes in handy). We talk more about how to prevent and what to do when your plant is under attack in our pest control and prevention section.
Tip #6) Harvesting
It is recommended to harvest Zucchini frequently as this promotes new growth. Don’t wait for the fruit to become too big. Withered or poorly shaped fruits occur when pollination is incomplete and it is advised to remove this fruit and toss them in the compost.
Do you have any other tips that you have tried and worked for you in your Zucchini gardening? Please do share in the comments section.