Michael Jenkins | May 13
Also known as courgette, baby marrow, or (rather beautifully) aehobak, zucchini is a hugely popular garden vegetable, and with good reason. The sprawling, vining plants are rather beautiful to look at, with huge green leaves and big deep yellow flowers. When well cared for, zucchini are prolific, producing large quantities of fruits in season. And the vegetables they give us are both delicious and versatile, well-loved in cuisines around the world. For a home gardener, zucchini offers some special advantages: it’s relatively easy to grow, does well in containers, and can be grown vertically. So let’s take a look at how to grow zucchini in a home garden, and some tips and tricks to get you started.
While many folks find it best to just buy seedlings, zucchini are fairly easy to start from seeds. This makes them popular for beginning gardeners or as a project for families–it’s fun to watch them sprout and grow from a tiny seed into a large plant! Generally speaking, you should start your zucchini indoors two to four weeks before the last frost date in the spring. Use a good potting mix and plant your zucchini in seed trays, with one seed per container. Ensure that the soil stays warm and that your sprouting zucchini have plenty of light so that they don’t get leggy. Some folks find that they get faster sprouting and a better rate of germination if they soak their zucchini seeds in room-temperature water for a few hours prior to planting.
Try to avoid transplanting zucchini too early. Ideally you’d wait till the plant has put out its secondary leaves and has started to vine out just a bit. Smaller zucchini, with just the primary or cotyledon leaves, are a bit more sensitive to root disturbance and may not do well if moved too early.
Growing Zucchini in Garden Beds
Zucchini do best in the ground or in raised beds. While most varieties of zucchini have relatively shallow roots–typically 12 inches(30cm) or so–their roots are fairly expansive horizontally, requiring about 24 inches(60cm) of space to grow comfortably. They also like well-watered, well draining soil rich in organic matter–zucchini are hungry and thirsty plants, particularly when they get larger!
Zucchini are traditionally grown on mounds of soil, sometimes called hills. Growing zucchini this way offers several advantages: the soil warms up more quickly in the spring, and the vines have more room to sprawl. Typically these mounds are about 12 inches(30cm) tall and roughly 24 inches(60cm) wide, with mounds spaced roughly 18 inches(45cm) apart. In mounds, zucchini need to be watered daily, requiring roughly 1 inch(2.5cm) of water per week at a minimum and more if the weather gets really hot or dry.
Growing Zucchini in Containers
As we’ve said, zucchini traditionally grows in mounds and often does best there. However, the good news for home gardeners is that zucchini also does well in containers! As with growing zucchini in the ground, you’ll want to ensure that you have good, rich soil and that your plants receive enough water daily. Container zucchini may need a bit more water, as containers may dry out faster than raised beds or in-ground gardens.
A word about containers: you’ll want to find both the right size container and the right size zucchini plants for a successful container garden. As with many garden veggies, you’ll want at least a five gallon container, although zucchini often benefits from a bit more room so a ten gallon container may be in order if your space allows. A well drained container that allows for good air circulation is a must, as well. You may mound container zucchini if you wish–some folks swear by it, while others say it’s not necessary. You may need to experiment here to figure out what works best for you. If you’re growing zucchini in containers, it may help to select a smaller variety that grows into more of a bush than a vine. These include the zucchini varieties known as ‘Spacemiser,’ ‘Gold Rush,’ ‘Sungreen,’ ‘Raven,’ ‘Black Beauty,’ ‘Bush Baby,’ and ‘Eight Ball.’ Your local nursery or garden store may be able to help you pick out the right variety for your space and your climate.
Growing Zucchini Vertically
We have one final piece of good news for home gardeners everywhere, particularly those with smaller spaces: you can grow zucchini vertically. While most commonly growing with the vining stem running along the ground, zucchini do perfectly well being trained vertically with the right support. You’ll want to use heavier supports–a trellis rather than a typical wire tomato cage–and secure the plant along its length by tying it to the support with a thick, strong string or rope. And while it’s always good to harvest zucchini regularly to ensure maximum production, it’s especially important to do so when growing vertically. The heavy fruit may weigh down the plant, damaging it or your supports/trellis!
Enjoy Your Zucchini!
There’s always more to be said, but we hope this guide gets you started growing your own zucchini in your garden space. Whether in the ground, in raised beds, or in containers, zucchini is a welcome addition to any home garden. If you have any tips or tricks for growing zucchini–or any zucchini recipes you’d like to share–please let us know either in the comments or on social media. Gardzen is a community, and we love hearing from you!