It’s Zucchini Season! How You’ve Been Growing Them All Wrong.

You probably think you already know how to grow a zucchini but if you live in North America … you might not.  Here’s the way to grow zucchini to make your plants last longer, take up less space and produce more.

Pruned and staked zucchini plants bearing zucchinis and blossoms with leaves growing above the vegetables only. Drip irrigation hoses run along the rocky soil beside the plants.

Why would you want your zucchini plants to produce more, you’re asking?  Because of the obvious.  They’re fun to throw through people’s open car windows during zucchini season. 

Zucchini are one of those vegetables that already produce more than you ever expect them to and seem relatively easy to grow. And they are.  But you can do a MUCH better job of growing them if you’re aware of these 3 surprising things about zucchini plants.

Most surprising of all is the fact that Zucchini can perform complex math equations.

No they can’t.

Growing Zucchini

Zucchini need to be pruned and staked.  For real. Like a tomato.

Zucchini can be planted VERY close together. 1 per square foot.

Powdery Mildew CAN be halted.  O.K., maybe not entirely halted but slowed wayyyyy down.


 

Shot of Karen Bertelsen's community garden showing lettuce plants growing in foreground, pruned and staked zucchini plants beside hoop house and corn plot in midground. Background shows hydro tower beside lush conservation area.

 

Pruning and Staking Zucchini

The only other plant in my garden that I prune more than my zucchini are my tomato plants.  Just like tomatoes, zucchini benefit hugely from pruning.  They’ll be susceptible to less disease, have a more open formation that allows easier access for bees to pollinate and they’ll take up less space.

Staking

It’s best to stake your zucchini when you first plant it, but you can still do it during the growing season.

Plant a stake right next to the main stem of the zucchini plant. I use coated metal stakes. You may not have noticed it before, but zucchini all come from one stem. That stem is just usually sprawled and dirty on the ground covered in decaying leaves. So you can’t get a good look at it.

But trust me. Zucchini have one stem, that can be staked just like a tomato. 

The earlier you do it the easier it is though.

Shot of a zucchini plant that has been staked only once early in the season. Leaves lying against soil show signs of pest damage and powdery mildew.

Above you can see a zucchini plant that’s only been staked and tied once, earlier in the season with the rest of the growth just flopped over.  The leaves are being eaten by bugs, there’s no air circulation and the lower leaves near the soil are getting powdery mildew.

Pruned and staked zucchini plant with all leaves below the emerging zucchinis and blossoms removed. Drip-irrigation hoses running beside plants on rocky soil.

Here’s the same zucchini plant after staking it properly and removing all the lower leaves.


Pruning

You can remove ALL OF THE LEAVES FROM THE STEM THAT ARE BELOW THE LOWEST ZUCCHINI.  

Foreground shows the hollow end of a cut zucchini leaf stem lying on the rocky soil beside a horizontal wooden stake.

Zucchini leaf stems are hollow UNTIL they get to the stem of the plant. There they turn solid again.  Prune your zucchini leaves right up to the stem of the plant so you don’t have any of the hollow stem left.

A shot showing where several hollow leaf stems have been cut right to the zucchini plant's main stem. Grey container with plant in background.

Hollow stem portions car harbour disease and bugs so make sure you get right close to the plant stem when removing the leaves.

Left side of shot shows a zucchini plant before pruning and staking. Its leaves show signs of pest damage and powdery mildew. Right side of shot shows zucchini plant after pruning and staking.

See the difference from the left photograph and the right one? 

WHY PRUNE?

The developing zucchini gain all their energy from ONLY the leaves growing above them. The leaves below, are just taking energy away from the rest of the plant.

Pruning away diseased and damaged leaves helps prevent and slow powdery mildew by creating greater air circulation.

Pruning away the larger, lower leaves that aren’t contributing to the plant means you can plant more zucchini in a smaller space.

 


 

Spacing Zucchini

Most guides tell you to place zucchini plants at least 24″ apart. You don’t need that much room between them.

Plant zucchini 1′ apart in 1.5″ rows.

If you’re staking them and pruning them this is all the room they need.

Here you can see pre-pruning and staking …

Zucchini plant shown before pruning and staking with leaves growing close to the soil. Hydro tower, poles and wires against cloudy blue sky in background.

 

And below you can see post pruning and staking.

 

Pruned and staked zucchini plant bearing yellow blossoms and emerging zucchinis against cloudy blue sky. Drip-irrigation hoses running alongside of plants on rocky soil.


SOME MORE GOOD VEGETABLE TIPS FOR YOU

SAVE Your Zucchini and Squash from Squash Vine Borer

My Leek Growing Technique – Based on Eliot Coleman’s

Make Paper Pots with a Wine Bottle

Make a Soil Grader for Levelling Your Garden from a Wood Pallet.


 

Powdery Mildew on Zucchini

It’s the kiss of death, but luckily it’s a long, slow, torturous death.  Most zucchini plants seem to be able to withstand powdery mildew for quite a long time.

But to make your zucchini plants last into the late summer and early fall, you can take a few steps to slow down powdery mildew.

If you’re growing zucchini plants by staking them and pruning them, you’re already doing a LOT to keep powdery mildew at bay. But for extra protection you can spray your Zucchini with a mixture of vinegar and water.  I have a full post on how to make and use the spray on zucchini here. 


For some reason in North America gardeners don’t use these techniques for zucchini (pruning and staking). But in Europe it’s been the way to do it for centuries. I made that centuries part up, but I imagine it’s probably true. 

 

Various sized freshly picked zucchini (two with blossoms still intact) piled on an outdoor bench made of weathered wooden planks.

Zucchini may not be able to do complex mathematical equations but they can add up like nobody’s business.

 

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It\'s Zucchini Season! How You\'ve Been Growing Them All Wrong.