There are several kinds of summer squashes, in all shapes and colors. Perhaps the most favored is the zucchini, often called a courgette in the UK and France. The most prevalent type of zucchini is cylindrical with rounded ends, slightly fatter at the center, and green in color.
Zucchini is a member of the melon and cucumber family. A prolific vegetable, the zucchini provides cookies great diversity in recipe applications including desserts, breads and casseroles.
Technically, the zucchini vegetable is the enlarged ovary of the zucchini flower, which may classify it as a fruit. However, in culinary circles, it's commonly considered and prepared as a vegetable, due to its savory flavor.
If you're new to growing zucchinis in your garden, do not worry. They're pretty easy to grow, occupy little space, and are very productive throughout the growing season.
As mentioned previously, zucchini is a warm weather vegetable, so it does not like cold and frost. Apart from that, it can grow virtually anywhere, provided you give it as much sun as possible. Limited shade is OK if you live in a very hot climate.
Setting Up the Soil
Before preparing your garden soil it is advisable to purchase a soil test kit as a method of determining the nutritional needs of your crop. These kits can easily be bought from your local home improvement stores such as Lowes and Home Depot. Zucchini likes well-drained fertile soil that has been amended with plenty of compost and is rich in organic matter. Generally this vegetable likes a pH of about 6.0.
This fruit likes to be planted in a mound so prepare your garden soil in mounds of 2 feet in diameter. Build an 8 "deep indention so the water drains to the center.
Once you've built up your hills, plant 3 seeds in each mound, about 6 inches apart. Zucchini plants are vines, so they need a large area to grow properly. After you see some germination, you can start thinning to 2 or 3 plants per mound. Unfortunately, increasing the plant will disturb the other plants nearby, so it's not practical to transplant from your original grouping. Simply snip the unwanted plants at the base to give the others more room.
If you have short summers or a generally cold climate, then start your zucchini seeds in a growing bed inside the house. Plant the seeds at least 4 inches apart, and make sure the bed gets as much sun as possible. After about a week or week and a half the seeds should start sprouting. They're ready to transplant to the garden when they reach 3 inches high. You can then place them in the aforementioned mounds, 1 or 2 per mound.
Additionally, you can take a few more measures to keep the temperature up and your seedlings warm. Prior to planting the seeds or seeds, cover the area with a black plastic or tarp for a few days. This will absorb the sun's radiation, heating the area more than normal, as well as trap the warm air benefit the plastic sheet. Zucchini likes soil over 70 degrees F. After this, a more permanent insulator is dark mulch, which behaves much the same way as the plastic.
Your zucchini should be ready to harvest in less than 2 months. Be very observant once they have started blooming. In general, the sweetest flavor and softest consistency comes from small zucchini, so you'll want to harvest early. As a bonus, this tells the plant to put more energy into fruit production, so you can get even more zucchini! On subsequent harvests, it's best to let the zucchini grow to 6 inches long. Large squash are good for flavoring bread or even as a serving container.