I don’t usually have much luck with zucchini.
Either my vines rot or my kids pick the flowers before they can pollinate or I wake up to leaves covered in powdery mildew. While my friends up North are bragging about zucchini bread, spiralized zucchini pasta, and side dishes of zucchini, I’m looking at once flourishing vines and wondering where I went wrong.
This year is going to be different.
Francisco Arroyo, owner of local organic farm KYV Farm, shared four tips to a successful zucchini garden.
#1: Start with the right Stock
In my quest to avoid GMO plants and to feed my family as healthily as possible, I always searched out open pollinated plants. This term refers to plants that will remain true-to-type year after year and are pollinated traditionally by insects, birds and wind. GMO plants, on the other hand, can not reproduce naturally; seeds gathered from GMO vegetables will produce weak plants and may not fruit at all.
Open pollinated plants are an excellent first step toward backyard gardening… but Francisco pointed out that this label is not enough for gardening success in Florida. “Variety, selection, is super important,” he said. “You should get a zucchini variety with the most resistance to disease and fungus. You need a variety bred to thrive in the South.”
The University of Florida suggests planting Cocozelle, Spineless Beauty or Black Beauty varieties. All of these are typically found at local nurseries and farm stores. Standard Feed Company on Kings Road in Jacksonville, for example, stocks only seeds proven successful for northeast Florida unlike box stores who ship plants in from other parts of the country.
#2: Plant Properly
Squash plants are heavy feeders. Prepare your garden for zucchini by working compost into the soil before planting. Plant seeds about one-inch deep and 2 to 3 feet apart so you don’t have to remember to thin seedlings. Some recommend planting zucchini in small mounds of dirt but I don’t hold to that school of thought. In Florida, we don’t need to create a raised mound to heat faster in the spring. If you have a particularly moist garden, however, raising the plant up with a mound or row could help keep the zucchini fungus free.
#3: Water Wisely
Zucchini love their water and need at least 2 inches each week but before you go crazy with the water hose, remember they are susceptible to powdery mildew! Water below their leaves with a soaker hose to minimize this problem.
#4: Beat the Bugs
“You gotta scout for bugs every day,” Francisco Arroyo insisted when we chatted while I shopped his stand for produce. “Mostly look at night or in the late afternoon because that’s when the moths come.” He again encourages Floridians to lean on UF – referencing their image of a fungus, virus or powdery mildew will help you identify and treat your garden accurately.
Now is the time to plant your zucchini. With proper care, this plant will provide an abundant harvest! When your crop starts coming in, collect zucchini early while the fruits are still small and tender and share with friends and neighbors!