Who doesn’t love growing zucchini? It is a delicious crop that always provides more food than you need in a season. Generally growing zucchini is easy, but sometimes you have to face such problems that make you scratch your head.
We are talking about problems that inevitably everyone faces at some point or the other, such as not producing fruit, dropping flowers, or yellowing of leaves.
Let’s take a look at the most common problems and what you can do about them to make sure you get that great old load of zucchini.
1. Seeds fail to germinate
Zucchini seeds are generally fast-moving with their distinctive double-leaf green tops. But if they are not coming after a few weeks, it could be due to any of the following:
- the seeds are too old. Some prefer to sow seeds within a few years and struggle to germinate if they are too old. Make sure your zucchini seeds aren’t all shriveled, bone dry or moldy. I like to buy new seeds each season, or if I save the seeds, I use them the next year.
- The seed-growing mix is old or of poor quality. Make sure you use a good quality seed growing mix and do not reuse the old mix.
- very little water. If you planted your seeds a little too deep, you may find that a spray bottle will not provide enough moisture for the seeds to germinate. If you planted the seed more than an inch deep, use the soaking technique instead of blotting the surface of the soil. Just make sure the container or tray is draining well.
- it’s too cold. It is best to start zucchini in a greenhouse or indoors if you live in an area that has a short growing season. The soil should be at least 60ºF. When the soil is too cold it can make the seed sterile. One of the great things about transplanting zucchini is that they transplant well.
- The seed rots. The seed is too old or you watered too much. Plant zucchini in well-drained seed trays or pots with plenty of sunlight. If the soil is still wet, do not water.
2. Seedlings die
It’s really annoying when you see wonderful shoots die after only a few days. Here’s why this could happen.
- To drop In one moment the shoots are healthy, the next moment they dry up and die on the surface of the soil. It is caused by fungus. To avoid getting wet, buy seed from a reputable company and use good quality and fresh seed growing mix. Don’t overwater or put too many seeds in it. If you reuse seed-growing pots, make sure they are clean and free of old dirt and debris.
- Drought stress. Inadequate watering affects all plants, but it is especially hard on zucchini plants. Keep the soil moist until the seedling is well established, but be careful not to overwater – especially if the soil is not free-draining. Zucchini’s root system is fairly large, so watering helps it spread out and draw in as many nutrients as possible.
3. Slow growth/fail to flourish
Once a zucchini is started, it is notorious for growing rapidly. If it seems to be struggling, it may be poor quality soil.
Soil rich in well-rotted organic matter is your zucchini plant’s best friend. These plants are prolific producers, so they need plenty of food to provide the plant with energy to grow.
Aim for a soil pH of 6.5 and use a well-balanced fertilizer. Don’t be tempted to add excessive amounts of nitrogen for rapid growth. This will produce lots of green leaves, but not that much fruit production.
4. There are many flowers but no fruits
If you have lots of flowers on your zucchini but none of them are producing fruit, there are two potential problems at play. The first is the lack of pollination. Sometimes bees and butterflies can’t or won’t reach your plants. If this happens, the female flowers are not pollinated and they cannot produce fruit.
Poor pollination often occurs early in the season. You may find lots of flowers that do not become fruit, or fruits that begin to develop and then stop and drop. Be patient with this. Temperatures can vary in spring and early summer, but once it’s consistently warm, the plants will harvest what you expect.
You can always help Mother Nature by providing an environment that encourages pollinators to visit or pollinate by hand.
The other issue at play may be that the plant is sending out male fruits before the female fruit comes out. This is normal, as the plant wants to make sure there are plenty of male flowers to work with before sending up female flowers. Just give it time.
5. End of fruit rot
Zucchini is prone to blossom end rot, just like tomatoes and eggplants. It is caused by a calcium deficiency in the plant, which is usually due to inconsistent watering or, less often, not enough calcium in the soil. Use a well-balanced fertilizer, and don’t let your zucchini grow out of dry soil and then over-water the ground.
Feed and water consistently, but don’t overdo it. Once blossom end rot is set, it is impossible to amend the fix. It’s best to plant new, fresh plants in nutrient-rich soil if you have enough time in the season.
6. Fruit is lumpy
You want the shiny smooth-skinned fruit, so what’s with those lumps that make zucchini look like they have a pernicious disease?
You may have Zucchini Yellow Mosaic Virus. It’s not as common as diseases like powdery mildew, but it’s certainly a concern. This virus can be present in seeds and can also be carried by aphids.
Buy quality seed and deter aphids with row cover and trap crops. Remove infected plants and throw them in the trash, not the compost pile.
Transplant new zucchini, but not in the same area. Rotate your crops every few years.
7. Parts of the plant are wilting while the rest grows well
If this has happened to your zucchini plant, it is likely a bug called the squash vine borer. This is especially true if there are no signs of damage other than wilting. Borers are small white insects that burrow into the stems of plants such as zucchini, squash, and pumpkin. Take the discolored stems and cut them open as this is the only way you can see them.
Adults look like wasps but are red and black in color. Look around the base of the discolored parts of the plant and you may see a yellowish dust that is actually their droppings and debris, called frass.
Insects hate diatomaceous earth. Sprinkle it around the base of the plant and reapply after rain or watering. Use insecticides if you see a lot of adults around you.
Another bug that can cause wilting is the cucumber beetle. They will also stunt the growth of zucchini and result in less fruit formation. Learn how to control and prevent these common pests.
8. Flowers Fall
Sometimes when you examine your zucchini plants you will notice that a lot of flowers have fallen to the ground. Your heart sinks, but don’t worry. It may just be a natural process of the plant.
Zucchini are monoecious. This means that they have both male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flower has to pollinate the female flower with the help of pollinating insects.
Once the male flower is done, it is no longer needed, so the plant drops it.
As the newly planted zucchini plant develops, it will often produce a greater number of male flowers than female flowers, so it is likely that you will see those flowers falling to the ground.
9. Lots of Flowers But No Zucchini
If your zucchini plant has both male and female flowers, but no fruit, you probably have a pollination problem. It can be caused by a number of factors. Weather may play a role, whether you or someone near you has used pesticides or there aren’t many pollinators around.
This can be quite common if your zucchini is in a greenhouse, under row cover, or in an area where pollinators are not frequent.
It’s time for you to be a pollinator.
Take a small paintbrush or cotton swab. Do this in the morning when the pollen is high. To collect pollen, wipe the anther of the male plant and transplant it by gently rubbing the female flower on the stigma.
Do this with multiple male and female flowers. Zucchini flowers are quite large, as it is effective and a simple task to accomplish.
10. Leaves turn yellow
There are many reasons why zucchini leaves turn yellow.
- Lack of sunlight Zucchini needs six to eight hours of sunlight a day. Yellowing leaves may mean the plant is not getting enough.
- Too much or too little water. You might think that a drought-stricken zucchini plant is simply a water-related problem that turns the leaves yellow, but too much water will do the same thing. Keep the soil moist like a well-moistened sponge and you can’t go wrong.
- damaged roots. Be careful if you dig around the base of your zucchini plant as you can damage the roots. They have a fairly large root system so you might be surprised how far they reach.
Hopefully, that hasn’t deterred you from growing zucchini because it’s a really easy vegetable to grow and you won’t be disappointed. Zucchini has its problems like all other plants, but it is generally a strong and reliable crop. Provide water, food, and rotate your crops, and you’ll avoid most zucchini problems.
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