- 1 What Is Zucchini?
- 2 How to plant Zucchini
- 3 Where to plant Zucchini
- 4 Preparing the soil for Zucchini
- 5 How to plant Zucchini
- 6 How to Water Zucchini
- 7 Best growing tips for Zucchini
- 8 Growing Zucchini problems
- 8.1 When seedlings fail to germinate
- 8.2 When seeds don’t thrive
- 8.3 Distorted leaves and fruits
- 8.4 Wilting plants
- 8.5 Powdering coating leaves
- 8.6 No flowers on trees
- 8.7 Dark, sunken rots or vine
- 8.8 The entire plant wilts
- 8.9 Leaves curl
- 8.10 Alternaria leaf blight
- 8.11 Fusarium crown and leaf rot
- 8.12 Septoria leaf spot
- 8.13 Verticillium wilt
- 9 Best practices to prevent Zucchini growing problems
- 10 FAQs
Zucchini is a gardeners’ favorite for many reasons: it is prolific, easy to grow, and produces one of the tastiest fruits you can grow.
However, while they are exceptionally good plants, they also come with their own fair share of challenges. They are prone to several pests and diseases and require adequate care to bloom successfully.
So, if you are here and you are about to grow Zucchini, it’s essential to understand the right growing tips and how to combat common Zucchini growing problems to grow your Zucchini the right way.
With that in mind, in this article, we discussed the common Zucchini growing problems and provided actionable tips on how to troubleshoot them, and explained other planting and growing tips we know would help you grow your Zucchini in the best way possible.
Let’s get started with how to grow and plant Zucchini.
What Is Zucchini?
Zucchini is also known as courgette and is a summer squash from the Cucurbitaceae family.
Although Zucchini is referred to by many people as a vegetable, botanically, it’s a fruit. And it comes in several varieties and colors, including deep yellow to dark green.
Zucchini can be an excellent addition to add to the aesthetics of your garden; it also serves medicinal purposes to treat cold, aches, and other health conditions. Additionally they’re a staple of summer cuisine, used for summer salads and stir-fries.
Here’s how to plant Zucchini:
How to plant Zucchini
It’s best to wait to plant the seeds during warm weather for best results, preferably when the soil is about 65 to 70 degrees. If you are in a warmer area then plant two crops of Zucchini, plant a crop during spring, and plant the other during fall. If you are in a temperate zone then plant it during summer, preferably in May.
Where to plant Zucchini
Like most plants, Zucchini needs a considerable amount of full sun, moisture, and nutrients to thrive.
Find moist soil that is rich in organic matter to plant your Zucchini, and expose it to about six to eight hours of sun per day.
You can plant Zucchini in the garden or in a container, depending on its type and variety.
To know where’s best for your plant to grow, check out the variety of Zucchini it is to know where it fits best.
Preparing the soil for Zucchini
Before you plant Zucchini in the soil, ensure the soil is rich in organic matter and moisture.
If it isn’t then mix a 3-inch layer of aged-compost enriched fertilizer into the first six inches of the soil. By doing this you will improve the texture and enrich its nutrients, which will help make it suitable for your Zucchini.
If you plan to plant it in the container, then fill your container with a lighter and softer aged-compost fertilizer for best results.
How to plant Zucchini
If you are starting with seeds, use directly to a nutrient-rich moist soil, which is mainly after the frost season has passed.
If you want to plant on a planting bed, wait for the seeds to warm up, then plant seeds one-half inch deep, 3 to 4 inches apart, and plant them in rows that are about 2 to 3 feet apart.
Also, if you are planting in a container, plant 2 to 3 seeds in a container of about 20 inches in diameter. When these seedlings are about a few inches tall, trim off one or two in the soil so that only the healthiest plant can grow.
How to Water Zucchini
Zucchini plants need constant moisture to grow bountifully. If they do not get enough water, they may rot.
To prevent this, water your Zucchini regularly, especially when you realize that the top inch of the soil is dry.
However, if you notice any signs of disease, ensure you water the plants from the base of the steam, and not from the leaves, to prevent the disease from spreading.
Best growing tips for Zucchini
Although Zucchini is quite a prolific plant, you still need to introduce some of the best practices to enable it to grow in the best way possible. Below are five best tips to adopt when growing your Zucchini.
Plant on hill
Planting on a hill offers a tremendous advantage to your Zucchini’s growth. “Hill” here simply means a raised mound of soil.
When you plant on a raised mound of soil, you put your Zucchini in a warm environment to grow faster, because hills of soil are often warmer at the beginning of the season.
Other than this, hilling allows you to stuff nutrients in the soil. You will be able to dig compost into the soil, which enriches the soil and boosts your plant’s growth.
Additionally, this method also enhances pollination. But to make this work, you must group about two to three plants close together.
When these plants grow close to each other, it improves the chances of an enhanced pollination process.
Track the pollination process
Without pollination, there will be no Zucchini. So, it’s critical to monitor the process to ensure the best results. Note only that the female flowers produce fruits and that the male flowers are used for pollination purposes. However, Zucchini plants tend to produce only male flowers first, before the female flowers that bear fruits.
As frustrating as this may seem, it’s best to be patient and use this opportunity to monitor the pollination process.
Remove the male flowers yourself, and place their pollen on the female flowers to ensure proper pollination.
While the initial growth process may not be what you want, considering that the male flowers come out before the female flowers, you can still maximize this period by monitoring the growth of the male flowers and hand pollinating with them.
Don’t plant too soon
Zucchini is best planted during warm seasons, so planting it during frost may be a bad idea. Even if the fruits manage to form during a cold season they won’t turn out the way they should.
You will notice pitted skin around the fruits from the cold, which will hamper its taste.
To prevent this from happening and ensure your Zucchini produces healthy and tasty fruits, it’s best to be patient and avoid planting too early. Wait till mid-spring, when the soil would be warm enough to help your plant grow the best way.
By planting during this period, you won’t have to worry about frost having effects on the fruits and your plant’s growth.
However, if, for some reason you plant too early, you may be able to salvage the situation by using mulch to cover the plants at night.
Try succession planting
Zucchini is a prolific plant, and you can expect it to start producing plants sixty days after planting. But while it grows fast and in abundance, its production also tends to slow down over time.
So, if you would like to have a consistent supply of Zucchini, you should try succession planting.
Succession planting allows you to have a steady supply of Zucchini throughout the growing season. To make this happen, sow its seed in your garden when the first round of Zucchini reaches maturity. You can do this around mid-July or mid-August.
Look out for Squash Borers
Squash Borers are among the most common pests your Zucchini plants are susceptible to. They often come out around June to early July to lay their eggs at the bottom of the plants.
When the eggs hatch, the larvae dig deep into the plants’ stems and feed on them. By feeding on them, they disconnect the water flowing through the stems to the flower, leading to the death of your plants.
The best way to prevent these pests from attacking your Zucchini is to plant them around mid-July.
If there is no Zucchini in your garden before this period, there’s no way squash borers will penetrate into your garden to lay their eggs. So by delaying your planting until around this period you can prevent their intrusion and protect your plants.
However, if you have to plant your Zucchini before mid-July, you can prevent squash borers from attacking your plants by covering the base of your stem with foil. Use it to cover about 2 to 4 inches of the stem.
When you do this correctly, you can prevent the Squash Borers from gaining access to your plants.
Growing Zucchini problems
You are likely to encounter a few challenges when growing your Zucchini. The most critical step to solving these problems is to know what they are and how to identify them. Below are a few of these problems and how you can solve them.
When seedlings fail to germinate
If you plant your Zucchini seeds and you don’t see any signs of seedlings germinating, then there is a problem. This can be caused by a number of factors, including poor soil, cold weather, inadequate moisture, and planting the seeds too deep.
The first thing to do when you realize your seeds aren’t germinating is to look through these factors and see which is responsible.
- First, check if the seed isn’t planted too deep, and ensure it’s not further than one inch deep.
- Second, be sure it is planted at the right time. Planting in a cold climate will bring poor results. If it’s a cold season, consider wrapping your plants up at night.
- Third, while it’s great to keep the soil moist, it shouldn’t be damp or soggy. Ensure that you keep it wet enough by watering it regularly, but don’t let the soil get too soggy so it won’t affect your plants’ growth.
Another common reason why your seed may not sprout seedlings when it should is because of damping off.
Damping is caused by different types of fungi, including Pythium, Rhizoctonia, and Fusarium species. To prevent damping off, purchase fresh seeds from trusted vendors, and store them in a cool, dry place away from moisture and heat.
When seeds don’t thrive
Although your Zucchini may be growing fast, it may not bloom as it should. If your seeds look like they have stunted growth, look discolored, or have a cotton-like growth in the soil, they could be suffering from “damping off.”
Damping off is caused by the same types of fungi that prevent your seeds from sprouting. The best way to prevent this is to maintain proper hygiene while gardening.
Keep your gardening tools and containers clean. Also, if possible, purchase a sterilized pot, and cover your seedlings if you notice any form of bugs flying around your plants.
Distorted leaves and fruits
Sometimes, your Zucchini leaves and fruits may look distorted, with different colors, and blisters. They may even shrink and look unhealthy. These are often signs of Zucchini yellow mosaic virus attack.
It is contracted and spread in different ways. For example, Aphids can transfer it to plants, and you can also spread them through unsanitized tools in the garden.
When you notice your plants have the mosaic virus attack, the best thing to do is to separate them from the rest of the plants and destroy them. Don’t keep them to use as compost for later; get rid of them completely and ensure that you wash and sanitize your tools afterward.
It’s best to plant your next Zucchini in a different site if your plants have been attacked by mosaic in a certain location.
But if you can’t change your location, you may be able to plant another round later in the season if you live in a warm area. But ensure that you keep all of your gardening tools clean as you plant to avoid contamination.
Your plants may suffer from wilting as they grow. For example, a part of a plant may look healthy; the other parts may be wilting away.
Most times, the Squash Vine Borer pest is responsible for this. When these pests infest your plants, they cause your plants to wilt.
You may begin to see yellow droppings on your plants, which discolors your leaves and make them wilt.
Apart from Squash Vine Borer, squash bugs, and Anasa tristis, cucumber beetles are other common pests that can cause wilting leaves.
To prevent attacks from these pests, spray diatomaceous around the base of your plants. You can also use yellow sticky traps to capture the adults.
Another effective way to curb these pests is to apply Bacillus Thuringiensis when the eggs are hatching but before they penetrate into the plants.
Squash Vine Borers are often difficult to control after infesting plants, which is why you need to take preventive measures to stop them from gaining access to your plants in the first place.
To do this, monitor your plants as they mature to notice any unusual growth early. If you find any brown clusters of eggs in your garden, clean them off early. Also, if you notice adult squash bugs in your site, place cardboard around your plants overnight. The next morning, you will find the squash bugs under the cardboard. Then, wrap them inside the cardboard and dispose of them properly.
Powdering coating leaves
Powdery mildew is common to many plants, and Zucchini isn’t an exception. You will begin to see white, powdery spots on the leaves. They grow from tiny spots and then take over the entire plant.
The danger of this is that, when this happens, it will affect the leaves and the fruits it will produce. Powdery coating leaves are mostly caused by Podosphaera Xanthii, a fungus that comes up during summer.
It infests plants with poor air circulation. So if your plants are too close together, you may put them at risk of powdering mildew.
How do you prevent or combat powdery mildew? The best way to combat their attack is to apply a sulfur-based fungicide to control them. Then, in the future, keep your plants spaced out to ensure proper air circulation among plants.
Also, keep your garden well-maintained by weeding out unwanted plants and monitoring your plants as they grow to detect any signs of abnormalities early.
No flowers on trees
If your plants form flowers without fruits, it’s due to a lack of pollination. So what do you do if pollinators don’t get the job done? The best thing to do is take matters into your hands and pollinate yourself.
To do this, get a brush, and collect the pollen from a male flower, and put them in the female flower stigma.
Re-apply more pollen from a male flower each time you move to a new female flower.
Add more pollen from the male plant to the female stigma, and within a few days, you will see a thick green bulb at the bottom of the flowers to show signs of effective pollination.
Dark, sunken rots or vine
Your Zucchini fruits may begin to grow dark and leathery spots or rot on the vine, which is caused mainly by inadequate calcium.
Calcium deficiency in plants happens when there is a lack of water in the soil to transport to the plants.
Unfortunately, when the fruit is rotten from lack of calcium, there’s nothing you can do to revive it. But you can prevent the issue in the future by ensuring that there’s an adequate supply of water for your plants.
Never let your soil dry out completely. Ensure it is moist to at least 2-inches deep. Do this by dipping your finger inside the ground, 2-inches in. If the soil is dry, then it lacks enough moisture, but if it is moist then it’s good to go.
To ensure the soil is constantly moist, keep a consistent schedule of watering it an inch every week. Also, avoid watering from the leaves to help prevent spreading diseases, water from the base of the plant.
This way, you can ensure the water penetrates into the soil effectively, and you avoid promoting diseases among your plants.
The entire plant wilts
While a part of Zucchini may wilt, the entire part may wilt too. The bacterium Erwinia Tracheiphila causes plants to wilt completely after turning their colors from yellow to brown.
Additionally, it could be a result of a lack of water. So, when you notice any withering, the first thing to do is to check if the plant is getting enough water.
If it is, then it’s probably being attacked by a bacteria wilt. While there is nothing much you can do to protect the affected plants, you can prevent further attacks in the future by preventing pests from gaining access to your garden.
Leaves curl caused mostly by Aphid infestation on your plants. Aphids suck the nutrients out of your plants, leaving them deformed with stunted growth.
The most prominent way to detect aphids infestation on your plants is to notice if there are any ants on them.
Aphids leave honeydew behind when they attack your plants, and ants love to feed on this honeydew.
To get rid of Aphids, spray your plants with lots of water from the hose. Then, spray your plants with 1:10 solution dish soap and water daily for about two weeks.
You can also adopt other pest control methods, such as introducing ladybugs into your garden to feed on aphids.
Additionally, you can spray your plants with neem oil every two days for two weeks.
Alternaria leaf blight
Alternaria is a leaf blight caused by Alternaria cucumerina. Its common symptoms are yellowish-brown spots with a yellowish-green halo on leaves.
The older parts of plants are often their first target; then, gradually, it extends to the younger leaves.
If you don’t get rid of this fungus in time, they expand to every part of the leaves and fruits. To get rid of this infection avoid watering the plants from the leaves, and water them from the base.
This is because the disease can spread through water, so watering from the top of the plant can spread the disease to other plants.
Additionally, weed regularly to avoid overcrowding the garden bed. By doing this, you can allow effective air circulation, which can prevent leaf blight.
If you realize your plants are already infested by the Alternaria leaf blight, trim off infected leaves and water from the base and not the leaves.
Additionally, apply copper-based fungicides weekly to get rid of the disease and prevent other plants from getting affected.
Fusarium crown and leaf rot
The Fusarium crown and leaf rot cause wilting leaves in plants. It wilts the entire plant and causes them to die after some time. The most common symptoms of this disease are stunted growth, wilting, and death.
If your plant is affected by Fusarium disease, the first sign you will notice is the necrotic tissue. You may also notice white elements on the surface of the soil.
To prevent Fusarium crown and leaf rot, buy healthy seeds from a certified vendor and rotate your crops every two years.
If your plants get infected, get rid of the plants and avoid planting on the site for three years.
Also, ensure excellent air circulation around your plants. You can do this by spacing them out properly.
Septoria leaf spot
The septoria Cucurbitaceae is a fungus that infests Zucchini plants. It creates tiny, circular white spots on leaves. They can be transferred to other plants through water and thrive under cold temperatures.
If you notice this disease on your leaves then trim the affected part using an organic copper or potassium bicarbonate-based fungicide.
The verticillium wilt is caused by verticillium dahlias. It thrives in cool weather conditions. Before the leaves wilt and die, they will first turn yellow.
You may also notice that the plants wilt during the day and brighten back at night. Other times only part of the plant will wilt, and the rest of the plants will look healthy.
This disease has no remedy, so it’s best to take preventive measures to avoid its attack on your plants. Rotate your crops and find Zucchini varieties with higher resistance to the disease.
Additionally, maintain good hygiene. Clean your tools, and sanitize them as you take them in.
Best practices to prevent Zucchini growing problems
Although growing Zucchini may come with its problems, you can control these problems with common best practices.
- One of the best practices to adopt is crop rotation. Avoid planting the Zucchini crop on the same site for more than two years.
- Second, maintain proper cleaning hygiene for your tools. Keep the garden beds clean through proper weeding, and clean your tools regularly to avoid spreading diseases to other plants.
- Also, water the plants from their base. Watering plants from the leaves makes it easy for the diseases to spread to other plants.
- Finally, monitor the plants regularly to find signs of diseases early. This will make it easier for you to control their spread, care for the affected plants and protect the rest of your plant from damage.
What can go wrong with growing Zucchini?
The most likely thing to go wrong when growing Zucchini is a disease spread. Zucchini are prone to a number of diseases that put them at risk of wilting, damage, or death. To prevent these diseases, follow best practices including crop rotation, regular cleaning, and proper monitoring of your plants.
Why is my Zucchini turning yellow or rotten?
Yellow or rotten yellow leaves are based on several factors. Yellow or rotten leaves could be a result of insufficient water for the plants. It could also be based on an attack by diseases, including verticillium wilt, Alternaria leaf blight, and others.
Should I cut the dead leaves off my Zucchini plant?
Yes, you can cut off dead or yellow leaves to filter off diseased plants, allowing new ones to grow.
Do Zucchini plants come back every year?
Zucchini plants are annual plants that last for a season, and they come back every year.
Do you pull out Zucchini plants?
When harvesting, don’t pull the fruit from the plant with your hands, because it may damage the plant. It’s best to pluck the fruit from the stem.