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Growing zucchini (courgettes)

Golden zucchinis
Golden zucchinis growing

Common fruiting problems

We often get emails about two common fruiting problems with zucchinis.

The little 1-3 inch zucchinis rot. This is because the female flowers are not being pollinated by male pollen. This is pretty common place, particularly if there isn't many bees around. You can help prevent this by hand pollinating. Rub a cotton wool bug against the male pollen (on the flower with the long stem) and then rub against the golden crown in the female flower (which also has a mini zucchini swelling behind the petals). This doesn't always work, but it does improve your chances.

The second problem sounds like blossom end rot where fruit almost ready to harvest starts rotting from the top of the fruit. Ideally this is prevented much earlier in the season by adding lime to the soil. Otherwise it can be caused by irregular watering. Mulch around your zucchinis and water regularly. If your plants have many days of no water and then a glut of it, blossom end rot can develop, ruining the fruit. 

We've had mixed results with zucchinis (sometimes called courgettes, marrows or summer squash) over the years. They may not be the tastiest vegetable in the garden but as your mother used to remind you - eat your greens.

Growing conditions

  • Zucchinis can be badly effected by frosts and cold weather, so grow them during the warmer months.

  • They're grown in full sun or partial shade.

  • Zucchinis like a soil manured the previous season.

  • They love well drained beds.

  • In a 4 bed rotation system zucchini is grown with summer vegies like sweet corn, pumpkins, cucumbers and melons.

Garden care

  • By far it's easiest to directly sow your seed where you want your zucchini to grow. Create a foot wide mound of soil about an inch taller than the surrounding soil. Plant 3 or 4 zucchini seeds as deep as your first knuckle.

  • As zucchini is such a bulky plant you'll need to thin the seedlings down to your strongest plant in each mound.

  • We've had two problems with zucchinis: the amount of space they consume and the air tends to stagnate around the main stem, causing it to rot. We're hoping to fix both of these problems with one solution. Thanks to a letter in the excellent American magazine Organic Gardening we're going to try growing our zucchinis vertically. We're planning to stake the plants as they grow. This way we should save space and air will circulate around the plant. This should (in theory) hopefully reduce the chance of the main stem rotting. The important thing about growing zucchini vertically is keeping ties (like old pantyhose) regularly up the "trunk". This summer I started doing this, got lazy and soon it was flopping about on the ground getting moldy as they usually do. Memo to self: don't be lazy, follow through with experiments.

  • Feed them every so often with an organic liquid fertilizer.

  • If you don't get many bees or pollinating insects around your way you might need to pollinate the zucchini flowers yourself. Get a cotton wool bud and take some pollen from the male flower. Male flowers tend to be on the end of a long narrow stalk. Female flowers are a lot closer to the main stem and have a swelling behind the petals. Look inside the female flower. There should be a golden formation. Dab the male pollen all over this female part. Hopefully in a few weeks that swelling behind the female flower will grow into a zucchini.

  • Mature zucchini leaves tend to develop a mottled silvery grey colour which looks a lot like powdery mildew. You should be right unless you water the leaves. Powdery mildew often occurs on wet zucchini leaves, or for that matter almost any vegetable leaves that are wet. Remember to water where its needed most, the roots, not the leaves. In summer you'll need to keep your zucchini's water levels high. They dehydrate very quickly on hot days so mulch them heavily (but remember to keep the mulch away from the main stem).

Harvest time

  • You'll need a knife to cut through the thick stem between the zucchini and the main stem.

 

Last Updated 19 August, 2012

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