Zucchini is a very versatile vegetable and is very suitable for cultivation in the domestic garden.
It is a very productive plant and, once the cultivation of zucchini has started, the cares to obtain a good harvest are few and easy to carry out.
Besides having a taste appreciated by adults and children, it is a vegetable with a low glycemic index, with only 20 calories in 100 grams of fruit. It is therefore recommended in low-calorie diets.
It is also rich in minerals that are valuable for our health, such as potassium and folic acid, and vitamins A, E and C.
Few Notions of Botany
The scientific name of the zucchini is Cocurbita pepo.
It is an annual herbaceous plant of the family Cocurbitaceae, to which also belong pumpkin and cucumber. It comes from Central America, where it was already cultivated in ancient times, and was imported into Europe after the discovery of America.
The stem of the courgette plant grows on the ground. The leaves are large, with long hairy petioles and slightly pungent.
It produces two types of single-sexual flowers, the female one, attached to the fruit, and the male one. The male flower is a sterile flower that does not produce fruits and serves only for pollination of the female flower.
It is called zucchini flower or fiorillo, has a yellow-orange color and is excellent cooked in many recipes, from the classic pancake to risotto and many others.
There are many varieties of zucchini with different characteristics, shapes and flavors. Let’s see some of them:
The zucchini president is the most common. It has an elongated shape and light green skin with dark streaks.
The Roman zucchini is round and fleshy, medium in size. It has a very sweet pulp and is ideal for cooking stuffed.
The Genoese zucchini or trumpet has a particular tubular shape with a final swelling.
The crookneck zucchini has the shape of a goose neck and yellow flesh. It has a lighter and thinner skin and a taste identical to that of the classic zucchini.
If you want to have your own small vegetable garden in a pot or in the garden, you can also choose to grow climbing zucchini.
Consider that the climbing zucchini needs a support to lean on, so if you opt for this choice, the ideal is to place it next to a railing.
Baby round is the variety of zucchini with a low size that is most suitable for pot cultivation. It grows in the shape of a bush and produces a lot of small round fruits that should be harvested when they are a bit ‘smaller than a tennis ball.
If you have a little more space and have pots at least 45 cm wide and deep, you can grow the Gold Rush variety, which produces golden-yellow fruits with a very thin skin.
Always for more space there is also the zucchini Tromboncino d’Albenga. Climbing, with very long fruits, excellent eaten raw.
Cultivation of the Zucchini
Growing zucchini is easy and profitable. In fact, a single plant produces several kilos of zucchini and its life cycle is over 60 days.
But before you start planting your zucchini, you should know that this vegetable needs a lot of sunshine and prefers a mild climate and a temperature always above 12 °, otherwise it does not grow and may even die.
Place it, then, in an area of the garden or garden exposed as much as possible to direct sunlight.
You can choose to start your zucchini plant cultivation from the seeds or by buying small plants already formed.
In the Seedbed
You can start sowing courgettes in the seedbed as early as March.
You can use a polystyrene seedbed or plastic jars with a diameter of 10-15 cm.
Place only one seed per pot, at a depth of one cm and with the tip pointing downwards.
After 15-20 days, 2-3 large leaves will have formed. Now you can transplant it into the garden.
Keep in mind that courgette plants need space to grow. Place only one seedling per hole, at a distance of 80 cm.
You can plant seeds until the beginning of August, with the last transplant in the ground at the end of the month.
In the Open Field
Sowing in the open field begins in mid-April and continues until mid-July. Depending on the geographical region in which you live, the end of the frosts must have arrived and the temperature must have stabilized around 10-15 degrees, otherwise the growth of the courgettes will stop.
The courgette plants grow luxuriantly both in length and width. They should be grown in parallel rows at least 1 m apart. And each plant in the same row must be at least 80 cm from each other.
Seed in holes 1,5 cm deep.
Put 2-3 seeds in each hole.
Cultivation Of Zucchini In Pots
You can also experiment with growing zucchini in pots, to create your own small domestic garden.
Get containers that are at least 50 cm wide and 45 cm deep.
If you choose the climbing zucchini, place it next to a railing that it can cling to.
Rotation and Association
The courgette plant should be sown in rotation, because it consumes a lot of organic matter in the soil.
It is therefore necessary to alternate it with lighter crops, to preserve the structure of the soil and give it time to regenerate.
It is advisable to wait three years before growing zucchini again on a vegetable plot. In the meantime, it can be interspersed with plants of the leguminous family, such as broad beans or peas, which enrich the soil with nitrogen and provide more nourishment for subsequent crops.
Soil And Fertilization
As already mentioned, the courgette needs a very fertile and well-fertilized soil, because it is particularly greedy with organic nutrients.
Therefore, it is a good idea to prepare the soil a few months before sowing or transplanting, by fertilizing it with organic fertilizer.
Enrich the soil with at least 3-4 kg of mature compost per square metre of surface area.
Once the plants are grown, incorporate in the soil a fertilizer that provides nitrogen, but especially phosphorus and potassium, which you can easily find on the market.
But the best method is organic.
Dig very deep furrows, bury manure and cover with more soil. The manure has to go down very deep to better fertilize the soil and prepare the food for the roots of your zucchini. You will need approximately 1 kg of dry manure per square metre, 5 kg if you want to use mature manure.
Then fertilise again once the courgette plants are in the soil. But this time, put the manure in small ditches next to the root of the plant, so that all the nutrients are dissolved during watering.
It can also be useful to return to fertilizing the plant when it begins to produce. In this case, it is excellent to use nettle macerate or pelleted manure.
In the first month of your plant’s life, you protect the roots by mulching, which involves covering the roots and stem with dry foliage and straw.
In doing so, it obstructs the growth of weeds and prevents the fruit from coming into direct contact with the ground, thus protecting it from rotting.
It is not recommended to use plastic sheets, because the plastic tends to heat up and could burn the plant.
Mulching is not necessary when growing climbing zucchini.
Zucchini is a very productive plant and as such requires a lot of water.
In spring and autumn, it is sufficient to water 2-3 times a week, but in summer or during particularly hot and humid periods, watering must be carried out every day.
As well as watering more frequently after sowing and young plants recently planted in the ground.
It is better to water early in the morning or in the evening when the sun goes down, preferably using water at room temperature.
Water directly on the roots or on the nearby soil and avoids to wet the vegetation because the fresh water falling on the warm leaves risks to burn them and to dry them up. A good way to do this is to dig a groove all around the plant and direct the water jet into the groove until the soil absorbs all the water.
Harvesting and Pruning
Zucchini is a vegetable that must be harvested still unripe, because if it remains too much on the plant it swells, fills with seeds and becomes bitter.
Moreover, after having produced three or four large fruits, the zucchini stops generating fruits. If it is harvested in time, the plant will continue to produce one fruit a day for many months.
So when is the right time to harvest the zucchini?
The best time to harvest your zucchini is when the flower is about to open.
Collect your zucchini when it is about 15 cm long and has a thin, shiny skin.
Take the fruit in your hand and gently twist the petiole. If you use a knife, make a clean cut to the petiole making sure that the tool is well sharpened, to avoid transmitting any disease to the plant.
If you want to pick the flowers, pick the male ones and leave enough female flowers for the plant to reproduce.