Growing zucchini and squash, Zucchini often gets referred to as summer squash, gets consumed for its soft seeds and epicarp across the globe. The vining herbaceous plant gets cultivated when the zucchini seeds are yet to mature and are good enough for consumption. The fruit, when ripened, gets consumed for its marrow. The said fruit comes in various colors ranging from shades of green to golden orange or yellow. A matured zucchini can reach up to the size of about 1 meter in length; however, ideally, they get harvested at 6-10 inches.
Overview of Zucchini
It takes about 45-55 days for Zucchini to mature and be ready for harvest.
The best time to harvest Zucchini is when it reaches about 5″- 7″ long.
Moist soil with high organic content.
They need full sunlight for about 6-8 hours every day.
Hardiness (USDA Zone)
The soil hardness should not be more than 6.5
They should be 3-4 inches apart row to row while 2-3 feet apart side by side.
Summer fruit and peaks in June and lasts till late August.
generally non-toxic, but some variants are toxic for consumption.
It ranges from light green, while golden Zucchini comes in yellow and orange
It takes about 35 to 55 days to grow and become ready for harvest.
They are native to Central America and Mexico.
The plant requires ample water to flourish; drip irrigation proved beneficial, and watering should continue even if the soil remains moist. Pruning of the plant is essential for its healthy growth, but ensure not to remove all the leaves.
Like Squash, Zucchinis also find its linage from Central America. The Mesoamerica region especially can get pinned down as the native region for the fruit. However, the green, cylindrical variant squash got harvested as Zucchini in the cities of northern Italy as much as three centuries earlier to cucurbits in America. A journal from 1901 traced that to the town of Milan, the first cultivation of Zucchini in Europe. Historians are sure that Zucchini were brought to the United States of America in 1921 by immigrants from Italy. Another journal from the same timeline stated that Zucchini was one of the 60 vegetables cultivated in the USA.
The nutritional content of the fruit is one of the reasons why people find Harvesting zucchini so profitable. The Green squash in folk medicine for treating various ailments such as the common cold and aches gets widely used in multiple parts of the world. Apart from finding its application in folk medicine, the nutrient-rich fruit gets cultivated for various other reasons. They are rich in multiple vitamin groups and minerals.
The summer squash contains numerous other minerals in trace amounts like iron, calcium, and zinc. The Vitamin A content of Zucchini helps in improving vision and immune system significantly. Experts noticed no marked difference in the nutritional content of raw Zucchini compared to cooked one; instead, a cooked Zucchini’s Vitamin A content is much higher than raw Zucchini. The high antioxidant content protects the body from damage-causing free radicals.
Carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene get found in Zucchini in abundance. The fruit’s skin contains the majority of the antioxidants, while the yellow variants are much richer in the ingredient than their greener counterparts. The crookneck squash promotes good digestive health in every individual due to the high water content that softens the stool. Several scientific evidence substantiates that it helps lower the blood sugar level in people who have type 2 diabetes.
Nutrients and Minerals for Zucchini:
The squash plant requires a lot of direct sunlight, and the location for cultivating Zucchini should be such that the area receives ample sunlight. The soil should be loamy and rich in three essential nutrients like Potassium, Nitrogen, and Phosphorous. Some cultivators use a combination of sand silt and clay to cultivate the plant as it gives a better drainage structure to the soil. Apart from using the mixture, one should not shy away from adding mulch, compost, and various other organic matters from time to time.
Planting Zucchini seeds in the garden area should involve proper spacing to help the plant spread its vines as it grows to maturity. Using organic pesticides can do the job of tackling various pests and bugs. The sweet zucchini leaves attract a wide range of bugs and pests, such as cucumber beetles and squash bugs. Due to the plant being a heavy feeder, the need to enrich the soil before sowing the seeds plays a mammoth role in its healthy growth. If the cultivator plans to use fertilizers, it should be rich in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.
The nitrogen helps develop the vines, while the phosphorous and potassium amplifies the fruit production. The use of water-soluble fertilizers goes down well with the plant, so as does the granule fertilizers. The only downside of using granule fertilizers is that they burn the part of the plant it touches, so good plant scattering is essential.
When to plant Zucchini:
The plant cannot withstand frost, and one should wait for the frost season to end before sowing zucchini seeds in the soil. Ideally, sowing in the ground should begin with the advent of April until the end of May. The squash seedlings require at least 50 days of frost-free weather conditions to survive and bear fruition.
A temperature above 15 degrees C proved highly beneficial for the plantation’s rapid growth. The cultivation needs 6 hours of direct sun along with the frost-free season. In recent times, due to the weather conditions, harvesting zucchini in the states of India fetched good economic results. The seeds to germinate the temperature of the soil should be within 22-29 degrees C. The seed rate for Zucchini approximately ranges from about 1-1.25kg/ acres.
How to plant Zucchini:
The process of planting squash initiates with the process of sowing the zucchini seeds in the soil. The soil should get prepared beforehand with a proper proportion of fertilizers. The zucchini plant spacing should range in 2-3 seeds per hill. The plant gets propagated through the sowed seeds, which should get sown to a depth of about ¾ to 11/2 inches. To cultivate Zucchini in a one-acre field, the cultivator must sow approximately 5000 zucchini seeds.
Using rice straw and plant mulch, one can protect soil moisture and weed growth minimization. Granular fertilizers in the soil often burn the parts of the plant it comes in contact with; the mulch prevents it from coming in contact. The process also helps in preventing the transmission of soil-borne pathogens to the plant. Zucchini plant care involves a series of steps beginning with thinning of weak zucchini seedlings. People looking to sow zucchini seeds directly in the ground should wait for the frost season to pass before planting Zucchini in the soil. April till the end of May is the best time to sow zucchini seeds in the ground.
Where to plant Zucchini:
The flexibility of the plant makes it very easy to grow them in pots and containers. The transformation involved with shifting the plant to the garden area can get easily avoided by keeping the plant in the shade for someday before bringing it back to direct sunlight. However, growing Zucchini in pots involves using pots with good depth to allow the roots to spread inside the soil.
Sowing zucchini and squash seeds in the raised beds will enable the plant to grow and yield fruit quickly. The top 5 cm of the soil in raised beds should always be a little loose to initiate the zucchini seedling to break out from the soil surface. The plant being vine in nature requires trellis once a certain height gets achieved. A zucchini trellis of about 6-foot tall metal stakes or wooden posts will achieve the desired result with little to no effort on the cultivator’s end. Using another 6-foot tall wooden post a little further away will provide the added stability to the plant.
Manure and pesticides for Zucchini:
The long squash gets subjected to the attack of wide varieties of pests and bugs. Agriculture experts advise cultivators to go for a soil test before adding manure to the soil. According to them, manure should get involved according to the need of the soil. While preparing the field, one should apply 1-2 quintals of organic manure to the earth. The essential NPK fertilizers will add the needed nutrients to the earth; in the initial days, 25 kg per acre should get followed, while in later stages, the dosage should get brought down to about 20kg per acre.
The cucumber beetles are one of the biggest enemies while growing Zucchini on a large scale. These beetles can get easily identified thanks to their distinct striped yellow back with black spots. These pests feast on the young leaves and stems; they communicate wilt disease from one plant to another. Diazinon and Malathion are some of the typical insecticides used to tackle the problem. Squash bugs and vine borers are other common pests found in the cultivation.
The zucchini leaves are highly susceptible to powdery mildew disease during the warm seasons when the moisture sets in on the surface of the leaves. Septoria leaf spot is another disease that often affects cultivation. The best way to avoid all the mentioned diseases is crop rotation and cleaning the debris from the previous year’s cultivation. Different types of summer squash are disease resistant, and the various problems related to pests can get easily avoided.
Types of Summer Squash:
There are various kinds of squash available in the farmers market, and we tried to include some of them here:
- Chayote Squash: They are predominantly grown in Mexico, are low in calories, and tastes quite similar to cucumber. The versatility of the fruit makes it very easy to sauté, baking and using them in soups.
- Cousa Squash: They look very similar to Zucchini, except with a little thinner skin on them. They taste sweet and find their wide application in Syrian and Lebanese cuisines.
- Zucchini: A year-round staple variant with its peak in the summer season. The mild flavor, thin skin, and firm flesh make it quite versatile. They find its application in muffins and bread to substitute pasta. Though the Zucchini can become a long squash like a baseball bat, it tastes bland and lacks flavor.
- Yellow Zucchini: The variant often makes its appearance in the farmer’s market during the summertime and tastes much sweeter than their greener counterparts. They are pretty different when compared to yellow squash, and buyers should not get confused. The best way to differentiate between the two is the tapering at the bottom for yellow squash.
- Luffa Squash: As the name suggests, a fully grown squash of this variant looks very similar to a loofah. The best time for consumption of this variant is when they are young and should get harvested during its earlier days. They can get consumed in raw state or added to recipes in a cooked form.
How to harvest Zucchini:
The glossy skin of the long squash indicates the fruit is ready for harvesting. When the size of the squashes reaches about 6-8 inches long, prepare for harvesting. Using a sharp knife, cut the green squash from the vines. Leaving a short stem at the top of the fruit improves the life of the Zucchini. Try to avoid tugging or pulling the fruit to prevent any injury to the plant and prevent any damage to the squash’s surface from improving their storage life.
Once harvested, wipe the fruit clean using a damp cloth and place it inside a perforated plastic bag. One can store squash in the refrigerator, but it shouldn’t exceed more than four days. A temperature below 50 degrees F will cause chilling injury to the plant. However, it can get frozen to very low temperatures to preserve them and use for later consumption.
- Garlic parm Zucchini sautéed.Roasted Zucchini with parmesan.
- Garlic butter sautéed Zucchini.