Zucchini 101: Planting and Growing This Super Squash

Get tips for planting, growing and harvesting your bumper crop of zucchini.

Courgette Zucchini Squash

Zucchini Squash

Squash, both summer and winter types, are best grown in the heat. Where squash bugs or squash vine borers are a problem, start seeds indoors and transplant into the garden in late June or early July. Protect with row covers until the plants begin to bloom. Covering the stems with soil as they mature will help protect against squash vine borer damage

Photo by: Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

There's a reason zucchini, a summer squash, is such a popular crop in the home garden: It's easy to start, can be grown in containers, and once zucchini plants start producing, they can be amazingly prolific.

Since zucchini seeds will come to maturity quickly — about 45 to 55 days — you can even wait until August to plant for an early fall harvest. In fact, many experts recommend waiting until mid-July to plant so you can avoid infestation of a specific type of squash bug.

Feeling inspired? Here's everything you need to know about planting, growing, harvesting and using zucchini.

Planting Zucchini

Choose soil that drains well in a sunny area of your yard. Amend the soil with compost or manure as zucchini plants are heavy feeders, meaning they require a lot of nitrogen.

Plant seeds an inch deep, 4 to 5 seeds per hill. If you're planting in rows, add 2 to 3 seeds per hole and 36 inches apart. If planting in hills, thin to 2 to 3 plants per hill once seedlings emerge.

Growing Zucchini

Here are some tips on caring for you zucchini:

  • Mulching around your zucchini plants after they have emerged can help the soil retain water, especially important if you're having a dry summer.

  • Make sure your zucchini plants get at least two inches of water per week.

  • Water zucchini using a soaker hose as watering from a can may lead to mildew on the plant's leaves.

Pollinating Zucchini

If your zucchini have beautiful blossoms but they fall off with no fruit, then you may need to hand pollinate.

Most common garden plants produce flowers that have both male and female parts. However, the reproductive processes of squash plants are separated into distinctly male and female flowers. A pollinating insect must transfer the pollen from the male flower to the stigma inside a female flower for fruit to develop. The fruit then develops from the female flower only. Squash plants tend to produce loads of male flowers early in the season, sometimes well before the first females start to show up. This can account for what appears to be a fruit set problem early on as the male flowers are useless until the females arrive.

The first thing you'll need to do is identify the male and female flowers. Males have a straight, thin stem just behind the petals. They contain the anther inside, which should be loaded with powdery, yellow pollen. Females are easily identified by a tiny, immature zucchini fruit (or ovary) that sits just behind the petals. Depending on the variety, it sometimes looks more like a thickened stem than a fruit.

Zucchini flowers tend to open up wide in the morning and are often closed by the afternoon, so it is important to hand pollinate in the morning. Pluck a fully open male flower from the plant. Peel off the petals to expose the pollen-heavy anther. Gently brush the pollen over the stigma of a fully opened female flower. That's it. Over the next few days you should see the small zucchini begin to swell and grow into a fruit.

Zucchini Companion Plants

You can improve your chances of growing a bumper zucchini crop by pairing your zucchini with companion plants that can minimize pests and disease issues or improve the soil. For example, 'Blue Hubbard' squash can be used as a "trap crop" to lure squash bugs, cucumber beetles and squash vine borers away from zucchini. Position 'Blue Hubbard' several feet away from individual zucchini plants or around the perimeter of your zucchini patch.

More Tips

Companion Planting for Zucchini

Zucchini plants will produce loads of fruit if they don't get taken down by common pests and diseases. Try companion planting techniques to boost your zucchini harvest.

Garden vetch (Vicia sativa) is often used as a cover crop as it pulls nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil for vegetable crops like zucchini to use.

Improve the pollination of your zucchini by including flowering plants in your garden. These are great at attracting bees.

When to Pick Zucchini

About 45 to 55 days after you plant, you should notice your plants starting to bloom. Make sure to look under the big leaves as it's easy for zucchini to "hide." The early, small squash (about 6 inches) are the most tender and flavorful, and picking frequently can lead to a larger crop. Zucchini squash can also get quite large, and you might be amazed at how quickly they grow. Cut your squash from the vine with a sharp knife and store unwashed in the refrigerator.

Freezing Zucchini

Since zucchini plants are generally easy to grow, your zucchini garden likely will provide a steady and generous bounty you'll not want to waste. The good news is that zucchini freezes well. You can feeze it chopped, sliced or grated.

Learn How

Freezing Zucchini and Summer Squash: A Great Way to Chill Out

Follow these steps and enjoy nutritious zucchini any time.

Blanching — a quick bath in boiling water before freezing — is easy and will preserve the taste and nutritional values of your harvest.

Zucchini Recipes from Food Network

Get Food Network's best zucchini recipes — from fried until crispy, shaved into a salad and baked into a cake.

Next Up

How to Hand Pollinate Zucchini When It Won’t Fruit

Are your zucchini plants producing flowers but no vegetables? They might need help pollinating. It takes just a few minutes to hand-pollinate squash plants and it is easy to do.

Squash Bugs and Squash Vine Borers in the Garden

Having problems with your squash plants? It might be squash bugs or squash vine borers. Both can cause significant damage to squash, gourds, pumpkins and zucchini plants. Learn how to detect these pests and preserve your crops.

Planting and Growing Artichokes

Learn all the basics of growing artichokes, from planting artichokes to the right time to harvest them for your dinner table.

Growing Butternut Squash

Get our tips on growing butternut squash, including when to plant butternut squash and techniques on harvesting and curing.

Planting and Growing Eggplant

Learn how to grow eggplant, including tips on planting eggplant, choosing the right variety for your garden and harvesting this delicious, heat-loving crop.

Planting and Growing Arugula

Make some room in your vegetable garden for planting arugula — a flavorful green that's easy to grow in cool season gardens.

Planting and Growing Bell Peppers

Grow delicious bell peppers from seed or seedlings with these expert tips on everything from planting peppers to harvesting.

Planting and Growing Radishes

Plan on growing radishes in spring and fall. Slice them into salads for a peppery punch, roast them to caramelize their flavors or eat them with salt, butter and a fresh baguette for a delicious snack.

How to Plant an Avocado Seed and Grow a Tree From a Pit

Don't toss that avocado pit — with a little patience, you can sprout the seed to plant and grow an avocado tree. It'll make a lovely houseplant that may someday pay you back with fruit.

How to Plant and Grow Onions

Get our tips on planting, growing and harvesting onions in your garden.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.