Are you a fan of zucchini? If so, chances are you will grow them in your garden. While these are great low-maintenance plants that thrive almost on neglect, there are some great tips to help increase their yield (and overall health). Read on to find out how to get your best zucchini harvest with our helpful tricks and tips!
- 1 1. Choose Disease Resistant Varieties
- 2 2. Feed Your Plants Generously
- 3 3. Avoid Blossom End Rot
- 4 4. Take Pollination in Your Hands
- 5 5. Get Prune
- 6 6. Crop Often
- 7 7. The Thing That Prevents a Good Zucchini Harvest
1. Choose Disease Resistant Varieties
Are you familiar with the saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a cure?” One of the best ways to ensure a good zucchini harvest is to give your garden the best possible start. If you buy seeds or plants that have been bred to resist certain diseases, they will be more likely to survive and thrive.
‘Ambassador’, ‘Emerald Delight’ and ‘Green Machine’ are just a few of the many disease-resistant varieties you can grow. These can prevent blemishes like powdery mildew, cucumber mosaic virus and ringspot virus (just to name a few).
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should just put them on and forget about them. They may resist these issues better than other varieties, but taking good care to prevent said diseases will help quickly.
2. Feed Your Plants Generously
like other Cucurbitaceae Plants, zucchini are heavy feeders. You need to offer them lots of nutrients, and replenish them with more during the growing season. When you plant your plants, be sure to work well-aged compost into the soil, and feed the growing plants with compost tea every two weeks.
You can either choose a well-balanced fertilizer as an all-purpose feeder during the growing season or adapt the formula based on the growth progress of the plants. For example, give them more nitrogen when they are establishing themselves, then switch to phosphorus when flowering and potassium when fruiting.
Fish emulsion is a great choice for zucchini plants, as is bone meal, well-rotted manure, or compost. You really can’t fertilize too much, unless you’re too heavy on nitrogen during their fruiting cycle. Then you will have lots of leaves and stunted fruit.
3. Avoid Blossom End Rot
Zucchini plants—along with pumpkins, tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers—are prone to blossom end rot, which is caused by a calcium deficiency.
I’m sure you’re thinking, “Can’t I just add calcium to the soil to fix this?” No. Blossom end rot usually occurs when the plant is unable to absorb enough moisture to extract calcium from the soil.
Most soils contain plenty of calcium, although you should test your soil before planting to be sure. You can always work in some calcium if it becomes low.
But for most plants, you’ll need to support your zucchini so that it can take up the calcium in the soil.
This means protecting the roots from damage, so don’t be too rough when weeding. It also means that the plant should be given enough but not too much water. Wet roots can’t take up calcium, and plants that don’t have enough water can’t take up calcium either.
Finally, don’t try to force your plants to grow rapidly by over-fertilizing. The plant will not be able to take in enough calcium to support rapid growth and you will end up with blossom end rot.
4. Take Pollination in Your Hands
This may seem a bit time-consuming but it can significantly increase your yield, especially if there are not many pollinating insects around.
Take some cotton swabs or scissors and transfer the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. You will be able to tell the difference between the flowers by looking inside them. Male flowers will have stamens, while female flowers will have pistils.
You’ll want to spread the pollen onto the female stigma, which are the sticky bits that appear on top. Do this by wiping the stamens with a cotton swab or cutting off the stamens. Then, wipe off the swab or stamens on the stigma.
Once you do this, the pollen is pulled into the pistil, fertilizing the flower. It will then turn into a wonderful zucchini fruit that you will be able to slice up and put in a ratatouille before you blink.
Hand pollination can increase the chances of an abundant zucchini harvest. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to tell your friends stories about your adventures in gardening artificial insemination.
In addition to hand-pollinating your plants, you can increase their chances of being fertilized by planting lots of indigenous wildflower species nearby. These will attract bees, wasps, butterflies and moths to your garden, all of which can help move that pollen around where it needs to be.
It will also help feed your local pollinators, helping them to grow and multiply in the next season.
5. Get Prune
And by that we mean pruning our plants.
Put on some gardening gloves, get a clean, sterilized pair of shears or garden scraps, and move on to your zucchini plants. Don’t crawl dangerously, because they’ll assume something is wrong.
Inspect them to see if they are being attacked by insects of any kind, and then select the leaves you are going to remove. The best to eliminate are those that are close to the earth and under any flowering or fruiting branches. These are most likely to be infected with mildew or blight, so it is better to take precautions and get rid of them.
Cut as close to the main branch as possible so you don’t leave a section of empty tube behind. It’s a big “come here!” It’s like waving. Sign for squash vine borers, beetles and other unwanted guests.
Next, remove any leaves that are turning brown or yellow, or that are throwing shade on the plant for no good reason. These are not essential, and will only release nutrients that might otherwise go into making fruit.
If the leaves you cut are healthy, put them in your compost bin or pile so they can be replanted in good soil. Conversely, if you find any bits of rust or mildew on the leaves, burn them. That way pathogens can’t make their way into the rest of your garden.
By cutting off these leaves, you’re not only helping to funnel good nutrients toward the zooke fruit, but you’re also increasing airflow. Additionally, you’ll allow more sunlight to reach the lower parts, thus reducing the chances of viruses and mildew growing in moist shade.
6. Crop Often
Zucchini is interesting in that the more they are harvested the more enthusiastically they produce. It’s almost as if they realize their fruits are being appreciated, so they make more. Isn’t that wonderful among them?
Your zucchini may mature so quickly that you may have to harvest ripe fruits daily. Check them often, and cut as soon as the fruit is about 8 inches long. When you cut the fruits, use a sharp knife to free them from the vine, not twist or tear them. This causes less trauma to the plant, so it can focus on producing more fruit rather than repairing the damage.
Additionally, be sure to remove any fallen or rotting flowers and leaves as soon as possible. This can help keep you from losing plants to soil-borne pathogens.
7. The Thing That Prevents a Good Zucchini Harvest
Oh honey. There are a number of different issues that can keep you from basking in zoo heaven. For example, I lost an entire crop in a year to powdery mildew. It was utterly devastating, but it taught me some valuable lessons that I can now tell you.
First and foremost, remember to keep your zucchini plants outside. These people spread like crazy and can host all kinds of pathogens if they don’t get enough air circulation. My favorite way to grow them is vertically, and I make sure to eliminate any unnecessary leaves. This will allow the pockets of water to evaporate so you don’t end up with mildew or rust.
Be diligent about checking your plants for squash bugs and other pesky insects. They can wreak all kinds of havoc on your plants. They often like to burrow into zucchini florets to hide, so wrap some double-sided tape around the chopsticks to get them out.
I like to scatter some diatomaceous earth around my zucchini, pumpkin and cucumber plants as a preventative measure. So far, it has worked wonders to keep all kinds of nefarious insects away from them.
Hopefully, these tips will help you grow the biggest zucchini crop ever. Then you’ll be able to experiment with frittatas, pickles, stews. kausa mahashi, baked goods, and even zucchini jam. Huzzah!
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