Zucchini is the hallmark of summer. It is a versatile vegetable that can be used in salads to curries. Did you know there was also a zucchini pie?? Talking about all these mouth-watering delicacies, makes you want to have fresh zucchini at your disposal so that you can harvest them and eat them. Sad that you can’t have some organic zucchini at home?
Don’t worry anymore because I present to you a full beginner’s guide to anyone who wants to have their zucchini at home but doesn’t have a vast garden space. Because believe it or not, you can easily grow your zucchini in a small container!
There are two different kinds of zucchini plants: bush plants and vining plants
While vining plants spread all over your plant and the flowers grow sporadically, the bush plant is much more compact and the flowers grow at the base of the plant which makes it easier for harvesting.
As you’ve probably guessed a bush zucchini is a perfect fit for your container.
Why Grow Zucchini In Containers?
Zucchini is very popular in the container growing world as they are very easy and give abundant harvest during summertime. The compact form of zucchini is very easy to harvest as well and zucchini, in general, is a much-loved vegetable. So technically it is a one-time investment that just keeps giving all summer.
There are a lot of plant owners who in spite of having garden space prefer to grow zucchini in containers and pots as the vining zucchini has a tendency of spreading everywhere and taking lots of space. Hence Zucchini is the perfect plant to grow in containers. They’re basically soul mates!
Now let’s get to the crux of the matter,
How To Plant Zucchini In Pots or Containers?
There is a very specific way of planting zucchini in pots. Following are the steps and measures you need to take to have some fresh deliciousness in the end:
Step 1: Choosing the right varieties
I bet you didn’t know that there are actually a plethora of different zucchinis and if you’re potting one or growing it in a container it is imperative for you to choose the right kind of zucchini. Some zucchinis grow larger than others and might be very difficult to handle when grown in small spaces. Large sprawling varieties will obviously not work, so you have to make sure you’re choosing one that will be more dwarfed and compact so that it is easy to harvest.
Some different and interesting zucchini choices are Gold Rush, Cue ball, Burpee’s golden Zucchini, and many more.
This is not a comprehensive list though so make sure the zucchini you choose has the word ‘compact’, ‘small’, or ‘dwarf in its description.
If you want to save seeds to harvest next year make sure you choose an heirloom variety to do the same.
Step 2: Choose the right containers
It is actually very important to choose or prepare the right sport of container that will fit the needs of your zucchini perfectly.
A container with a diameter of at least 61 cm (24 inches) and a depth of 30 cm (12 inches) will work perfectly. Also, make sure that the container has a drainage hole in the bottom. You can easily create a drainage hole by drilling a few holes at the bottom of your container.
If you are going for a really dwarfed and compact variety of zucchini then you can even choose a pot as small as 40 cm wide and deep. Just make sure it has a drainage hole at the bottom.
You can easily adjust the size of your container/pot depending on the variety and amount of zucchini seeds you plan to plant. You can go as small as 5 gallons (which holds a compact variety and you can plant only 1) or as large as 55 gallons (which can be used for vining varieties or can be planted up to 3 or 4.)
Step 3: The right potting mix
We have reached the heart and soul of zucchini growing. The potting mix is instrumental in the quality of zucchinis you will harvest. You have to ensure that you get the right potting mix that is filled with all the required nutrients. This means you will have a better quality of zucchini and you won’t have to water it that often as it will be replenished with nutrients from the soil continuously.
It requires a well-drained and lightweight potting soil. You could take a commercial mix containing a variety of ingredients such as peat, compost, and coconut coir, fine bark coupled with either vermiculite or perlite. These will help in retaining some moisture as Zucchini plants need quite some amount of water. It is essential to add fertilizer before you plant your seeds. When you are adding your potting mix, stop when you have filled it up till ⅓ of the container.
Add into the container a mix of 10-10-10 (NPK) granular slow-release fertilizer and a calcium amendment like calcium sulfate or calcium chloride. Keep alternating between the layers of the potting mix and the calcium layers until you’ve filled it till the top. Ultimately add fertilizer on the top depending on the brand and the instructions that are written on the packet.
Usually, we would not recommend you add extra calcium layers but since we are growing this in a container they need all the extra help they can get.
Step 4: When and how to grow
Zucchini are summer plants so depending on where you live, you can officially plant your zucchini between late April and mid-July. Just make sure that there is no frost in the atmosphere and the temperatures do not go down to freezing levels as that will kill your zucchini plant.
As I mentioned earlier this plant thrives during summertime. Of course, if you have a greenhouse, you can plant your zucchini whenever you want. The ideal temperature to plant your zucchini is anywhere near 18° – 22 ° (Celsius).
Now let’s get to the exciting part. Planting your zucchini! I know you’ve prepared and waited for this for a long time and planting your zucchini is key to making sure you get a plant that flourishes. Wear some gardening gloves and let us get down and dirty.
Dig a hole with your pointer that is about ½ inches deep and an inch wide so that they have enough space to grow. Put 2 seeds just in case one of them dies before sprouting. After inserting the seeds, cover it up but make sure you don’t pat the soil above or around the seed too harshly.
If you want to avoid all the excess trouble and worry about your seeds not sprouting you can easily get a baby sprout from your local gardening store and plant that instead.
Step 5: Placement and Watering
After you’ve finished potting your container or pot you need to find a place for the zucchini that can help its growth. To aid you in this process observation is key. You need to find a spot that gets sunlight easily. Zucchini plants usually need at least 6 hours of sunlight so make sure that you position your container in full sunlight.
They also require copious amounts of water, you can make your life easier by positioning it near an easily accessible water source. You also want to position your zucchini pot near other plants, flowers or a place that easily attracts bees, butterflies, ants, and other creatures like that because zucchini needs to be pollinated in order to bore fruit.
Even if you buy a compost plant, they have a tendency of spreading out. Hence if you wish to meet these requirements but are a little tight on floor space you can encourage your zucchini to grow vertically by putting a tomato cage over your compact zucchini plant.
Step 6: Spacing
Spacing is important so that they can get enough room to breathe and grow properly. The bush or compact types need to be spaced at least 2 feet away from plants or walls. The vining varieties need to be spaced at least 4 feet away from other plants and walls. If your tiny space does not fit these requirements you can get a tomato cage for your compact plants and build a trellis for your vining plants to ensure they don’t spread sporadically.
Zucchini Plant Care:
Just because you’ve successfully planted your zucchini, does not mean your responsibilities stop there. Following are the ways in which you need to take care of your Zucchini to have a successful harvest:
Zucchini Container Care:
First things first, you need to make sure that you care for the container in which you are growing your zucchini. It is very important to keep the plant watered but also make sure your container is not waterlogged. An easy way to check if the plant needs water is to dig your finger in the soil till about 2 inches.
If the soil is dry, then it is time for you to water the plant again. You also have to remember to water the base of the plant. If you put water over the leaves then that might cause them to get moldy and diseased.
Pruning the zucchini is a very easy process. It is not complicated at all and very self-explanatory, especially if you are a veteran in gardening. Zucchini leaves are very large and often overshadow the plant itself. So make sure you remove these leaves so that the plant is not shaded and gets all the required sunlight.
You can start the pruning once the plant has started to bear fruit. Prune the excess leaves but don’t cut the leaves which are very close to the stem of the plant or fruits.
Mulching is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your plant never runs out of moisture. It not only reduces the use of water but also provides the plant with all the extra nutrients and supplements it needs to flourish properly.
When you add a good quality organic mulch, you ensure that the moisture does not evaporate from the soil. You can use mulch in the same way you would in a garden. You can make some homemade compost or leaf mold and use mulch so that it seeps in the soil and gives you a great harvest.
Fertilizing the plant:
After you’ve regularly watered the plant and given it all the care it needs and you see the blossoms start to appear, it is time that you start fertilizing again. You can apply the 10-10-10(NPK) fertilizer again in regular intervals of every two weeks. This will feed the spoil with all the nutrients and supplements it could possibly need.
Every fertilizer is different so make sure you follow the manufacturing instructions. Even though you’ve probably fed the plant with mulch, plants in container care usually need a little more fertility in the soil and hence you need to add fertilizer in regular intervals. You can also think about using a spray fertilizer if you’re afraid of damaging the base and roots of the plant.
Transplantation is a very fragile and delicate process and you want to make sure that you don’t damage the sensitive roots of the zucchini. It is an optional step for transferring your zucchini out of your container and in your garden. When the plant has about three to four leaves it is usually ready for transplantation. You can cover the garden area with black plastic for about two weeks to stimulate fast and vigorous growth.
To avoid transplant shock make sure you familiarize the plant with the weather before you suddenly place it in the garden. Cut large X’s in the plastic sheet spaced at least 2 – 3 feet away from each other. Then dig a hole twice the size of root balls. Place the plant inside gently making sure you don’t disturb any roots at all. Fill the rest of the hole with soil and pat it gently. Water the plant until it is saturated till its roots and keep a close eye in it until you can see some new growth.
Pests and Diseases:
It is quite heartbreaking when you see your precious zucchini plants being affected by some type of insects or pests. Don’t make the common mistake of writing this off as normal zucchini worms.
There are actually a lot of common insects that can affect your zucchini plants. There are also a variety of diseases that your plants may suffer.
Enumerated below are a few of the common zucchini pests:
Cucumber Beetles: These plants love to eat any summer squash harvest. They are usually yellow with black stripes and create small holes in your leaves. Hence if you see any holes in your leaves keep an eye out for them. You can either use yellow sticky traps or put some petroleum jelly on your gloves and wipe them off your leaves.
Squash bugs: Squash bugs are an obvious threat when it comes to squash plants. They usually make an appearance during mud summer. They lay eggs in little rows underneath the leaf. If you spot these eggs on your leaves, it is the first sign of you having an infestation.
You can remove these eggs using duct tape to pull them off the leaves. But to avoid further infestation, apply pesticides that contain carbaryl, permethrin, bifenthrin, or esfenvalerate. Check your plants every day to make sure you don’t have any eggs on your leaves
Usually, all this infestation can be regulated with proper weed management and pesticides.
The following are the common diseases that you should look out for:
Blossom end rot: There is no coming back from this disease. It is usually caused when there is either water or a calcium deficiency. Your Fruits will start to develop deep dark sunken craters. Hence we had advised earlier to add extra calcium and regular watering of plants.
Powdery Mildew: This usually takes place at the end of summer when the weather is a little more humid. There is a white powdery substance that settles in your leaves. To cure your plant of this you can either spray it with neem oil or other organic methods.
Bacterial Wilt: Bacterial Wilt is usually caused by cucumber beetles. They spread bacteria known as the Erwinia tracheiphila. This usually wilts your plant or may even cause it to die. So keep an eye out for those beetles.
Plant companions in nearby containers:
Companion plants are something very commonly used to create polycultures in the container plants. Like we discussed earlier, pollination is very important for a plant like zucchini and hence if you plant a plant that attracts bees, they might help you with pollination.
They can also function as trap plants for any insects or pests that may infect your zucchini. Some of the ideal plants to grow neater you zucchini are Nasturtium or Parsley (they help ward off pests and require the same amount of water and sunlight). You can also borage, a wide range of flowers or other aromatic herbs.
Remove Leaves as and when necessary (and eat them!):
As you’ve already learned, Zucchini leaves can be quite big and can overshadow the plants in the nearby containers. They can also overcrowd and suffocate other plants. Especially if you live in a small or compact space you need to remove excess leaves. This is because the Zucchini plant is infamous for spreading sporadically.
To avoid additional congestion you can remove the leaves to encourage more sunlight and airflow to the plants. And the best part is that you can easily eat these healthy leaves. The flowers and leaves of the zucchini plant can act as an additional harvest.
Harvesting Your Zucchini- When And How To Harvest:
The average zucchini usually takes around 45 – 60 days to grow. Your plant will sprout zucchini until the frost season hits. Although it is very important to harvest the zucchini at the right time. If you leave it on the plant for longer than required then they will rot. You want to pick your zucchini when it is about 15 cm long.
To cut the zucchini you can either use sharp scissors or a knife. Make sure they are clean before you use them on the plant to avoid any disease. You don’t want to harshly tug or twist the zucchini off the plant as that might harm the plant. Also, make sure you are wearing gloves while you do this as the plant can get prickly sometimes. Then you can store the zucchini in your fridge in its raw state in the fridge for about 2 weeks as fresh zucchinis tend to last long.
There you have it! This was your one-stop guide to grow this delicious summer fruit at your home. Who knew that you could grow zucchini at home, especially in everyday containers and pots! You will probably have to search for all the delicious recipes you can make using zucchini because you’re going to have at your disposal all summer long!