Let’s face it, store bought zucchini can be a real downer. It seems like every time I visit the store, I’m sitting there filtering through numerous old and abused specimens just to try and find a couple zucchini decent enough for eating. Luckily, there is a way to escape haggard store bought zucchini, and that’s to grow it yourself! No matter how little space you may have, zucchini can be adapted to fit. With summer just around the corner, now’s the time to capitalize on your opportunity to grow this prolific squash. In this gardening guide, learn how maintain and grow zucchini in a container!
Plant Identification – Zucchini
- Binomial Name – Curcurbita pepo
- Family – Curcurbitaceae
Basics for Growing Zucchini in a Container –
- Container – Zucchini plants grow quite large, so the container accommodating them should naturally be large as well. A container size of at least 25 gallons should be used for growing zucchini. Large storage bins often work great as planters. The plants can naturally reach diameters of three plus feet, so take that into consideration when choosing a container.
- Fertile Potting Soil – With their large and prolific nature, zucchini plants are heavy feeders. Potting soil should be rich in composted organics, and even better, amended with fish emulsion or earthworm castings. Among fertility, the potting soil should also drain well. Zucchini plants do not stand waterlogged and soggy soils, so make sure that your potting soil of choice is amended with perlite or vermiculite.
- Full Sunlight – Your zucchini plants will do best in an area where they receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. They will even be more prolific in areas where they receive 8-10 hours of full sunlight.
Growing zucchini from seed couldn’t be easier! Since these plants grow so quickly, you’ll find that in most climates, there’s no need to start the seed indoors. For gardeners already raising indoor pepper, tomato and other summer seedlings, it’s a burden lifted to hear that zucchini can be planted directly into the garden! Here’s a look at how it’s done:
- About two weeks after the average last frost date in your area, zucchini seeds can be sown. Fill your container full with potting soil and water it in well.
- Plant two or three seeds in the middle of the container. Space the seeds two inches apart and one inch deep. The reason for planting multiple seeds is to ensure the germination of at least one zucchini plant.
- Until the seeds germinate, keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy.
- In seven to fourteen days, the zucchini seed should begin to sprout.
- Once sprouted, be sure to maintain soil moisture, but allow the top soil to dry before repeated waterings. The best method for watering zucchini in containers is to water thoroughly only once the top two inches of soil has become dry. It might seem like you’re not watering enough, but you’d be surprised by how much moisture a large planter contains. Soggy and over watered soil promotes disease and rot.
- If more than one zucchini seedling sprouted, thin to just one plant per container after two weeks of initial growth.
Hand Pollinating Zucchini –
I’m not too fond of making quick conclusions, but if you’re growing zucchini in containers, you’re most likely not sitting on acres of plantable pastures. I say this only because most container gardeners find themselves located in the heart of suburban and urban demographics. While these areas are still prime for gardening, the massive human influence of roads, buildings and housing developments may have decimated local populations of natural pollinators. Without these pollinators, gardeners are left to do the work themselves. So, if you rarely get visits from those good old bumblebees, consider hand pollinating zucchini for best results.
- During the morning hours when the zucchini pollen is most viable, cut off one male zucchini flower and remove the petals. Leave the stamen intact.
- Gently rub the stamen containing the bright orange pollen onto the pistol of the female flower. One male flower can pollinate several female flowers.
Depending on the variety you chose to grow, your zucchini plants should be ready for harvest in as little as 40 days from seeding. Now that’s pretty quick! To harvest your zucchini, simply use a sanitary knife to cut off the zucchini fruit stem as close to the plant base as possible. Use a clean quick cut to minimize damage to the zucchini plant. Although zucchini can be left to grow up to three feet long, the most tender and flavorful fruits tend to be six to eight inches long. Harvesting often will encourage continued production.