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MAIN Arrow to Home Life Home Life Arrow to GardeningGardening Arrow to Vegetables Vegetables Arrow to Zucchini Zucchini

zucchiniZucchini, summer squash - or more popularly known in the UK as courgette - is a member of the squash family and technically classified as a fruit. In practice, the ubiquitous zucchini is more often served as a vegetable side dish.

For a successful zucchini crop, soil is prepared similarly to growing cucumbers with lots of organic or well-rotted manure fertilizer before planting. Light feeding throughout the rest of the summer is all that is needed to keep them thriving. In fact, due to their ease of cultivation and rapid growth the zucchini is also a natural for kids' gardening projects.

Plants may be started indoors and later planted outdoors at least a foot apart. (One or two vines are usually enough to feed a family of four, and then some.)

Secrets to a successful zucchini garden

Water vines copiously during hot summer days and watch for evidence of leaf wilt or tiny holes that appear caused by the cucumber beetle, a common pest.

Although watering is important at the height of the season, be careful not to overdo it! Blossom drop, or failure to set fruit, may often be the result of wide fluctuations in soil moisture.

Cucumber beetle
Zucchini pests:
Cucumber beetles

Also note that bees are important to zucchini flower pollination. If there are not enough bees in the neighborhood to go around, simply "make like a bee" and hand pollinate with a soft artist's brush. Stroke the interior of the blossoms so that that the pollen will adhere to the brush and then "mix it up" with all the other flowers to pollinate.

While zucchini can grow to almost 3-feet in length, for maximum texture and flavor they are best picked when they are about 6 inches long.

What to do with all that zucchini

Zucchini is a fast grower — so much so that gardeners can be sometimes overrun with a bumper crop. Usually, friends and neighbors are enlisted to take at least some of the crop which can only be stored for several days and must be eaten as quickly as they mature.

When all else fails, remember that zucchini freezes well and can be sliced or cut up and stored in freezer bags for months of winter use. Versatile and delicately flavored, zucchini can be steamed or boiled, grilled, stuffed or baked, barbecued, fried, or chopped very fine to be incorporated into a zucchini quickbread.

Its bright yellow blossoms are also eaten stuffed or lightly breaded to make fried zucchini flowers.

On the Web - How to plant & grow zucchini, AND recipes:

Summer Squash - Watch Your Garden Grow - Excellent fact sheet on when to plant or harvest, spacing & depth, care & feeding, plus more on common problems as well as how to cook and prepare with favorite recipes, from the University of Illinois Extension.

Zucchini Recipes - Literally thousands of visitor-submitted recipes with complete ingredients, instructions and how to's for preparing a bumper crop.

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