Zucchini needs full sun, warm temperatures, fertile soil, and steady moisture. To get summer squash in the ground as early as possible in the spring, it's best planted in raised beds because they warm up faster and drain more readily than the surrounding ground.
Zucchini is also easy to grow in containers. If you have limited garden space, you can grow one or two plants on your patio or deck in a 5-gallon or larger container.
• Choose a sunny location (6+ hours of sun) and dig a hole about two times as wide as your pot.
• Remove your plant from the pot by loosening the soil and tipping it out into your hand. Place your plant in the soil about as deep as it was in the pot.
• Refill the space around your plant with soil and press lightly to compact the dirt, keeping your plant firmly in the ground.
• Water immediately to settle the soil, and add more soil as needed, bringing it level to the rest of your garden.
Zucchini prefers soil that is constantly moist and wilting in scorching, mid-afternoon sun is normal for summer squash. They will recover when the sun goes down.
Mulch is essential to keep the soil around the roots moist and to regulate soil temperature. Apply a light layer of mulch after planting.
To avoid insects and diseases, keep your garden free of weeds. Remove and destroy any mildewed or diseased leaves and stay out of the garden when the leaves are wet to avoid spreading diseases from plant to plant. Avoid planting zucchini in the same spot each year.
Like most vegetables, zucchini is tastiest when harvested young before seeds are fully developed. Harvest when the skin is still soft enough to be pierced with your thumbnail. Pick zucchini when it's about 4 to 6 in. (10 to 15 cm) long. If you like stuffed zucchini, allow them to grow to 8 inches (20 cm).
Cut the fruits from the vine carefully. Using garden pruners, cut the stem about an inch above the fruit. Don't try to twist or yank the squash as you could rip the skin or damage the plant.
With all zucchini, regular picking will keep the plants producing fruit all season long. Think of each plant as a squash assembly line. When the plants are going gangbusters in midsummer, you may have to harvest two or three times a week!
Because zucchini is picked in its tender, immature stage and is predominantly water, the fruits don't store well and should be used shortly after harvest. Whole zucchinis will keep for a few days in a perforated plastic bag in your refrigerator. Although you can blanch and freeze any surplus harvest, the quality will be greatly reduced. You can pickle the smaller fruits much like you would cukes, but the best option is to probably give away extras to neighbors or friends.
Summer squash, like zucchini, is excellent served raw in salads or on a veggie tray with party dips. Wash and trim the squash, then cut into sticks or round 'coins' just before serving.
Most of us prefer to cook our squash, however. The key to preparing summer squash is to avoid overcooking. Slice the squash and steam or stir fry for only a few minutes until just tender, and serve hot with herbed butter. For interesting flavors, try seasoning zucchini with fresh herbs like basil, chives, dill, mint, and parsley. Zucchini is particularly recommended for fresh ratatouille. Tomatoes, peppers, and squash mature in the garden around the same time.
Zucchini is best when cooked with as little water as possible to retain its subtle but unique flavors. Do not boil the fruits as the flavor and texture will be lost. For a real treat, try grilling sliced zucchini seasoned with herbs. If you prefer to use olive oil when grilling, just brush a little on each slice. Zucchini, like eggplant, is like a blotter and will absorb a lot of oil if left to sit in it.
Squash, corn, and beans are three of the oldest food sources grown in the Americas. Squash is believed to have originated in Mexico and Central America where people have been eating it for at least 7,500 years. To this day, squash is an important staple food in these areas.
Native Americans shared many varieties of squash with the European settlers, who carried the seeds back to their home countries. Today, squash is grown all over the globe.