Grow zucchini, the courgette (Cucurbita pepo) is a plant of the cucurbit family that cannot be missing in a home garden: it requires many nutrients from the soil but if cultivated correctly it offers a rich production of excellent vegetables, and then in addition to the fruit you can also cook the delicious courgette flowers, to be made as soon as they are picked.
Zucchini is a vegetable particularly suitable for low-calorie diets it has only 20 calories in 100 grams of fruit, there are many recipes with zucchini, which is why it is a plant not to be forgotten in the family garden.
Below we will discover tricks and tips to best cultivate this vegetable with organic farming methods, from the suitable period for sowing to fertilization, up to the zucchini harvest.
The soil and climate in which to grow zucchini
The right soil. Zucchini ideally requires a soil ph between six and seven, they are a very demanding plant in terms of organic matter and nutrients and for this, you need rich soil, which we can help with good fertilization. To prevent diseases such as powdery mildew there must be no water stagnation, we preferably choose a sunny plot.
The ideal climate. The courgette is a plant of tropical origin, for this reason, it requires a fairly temperate climate and fears frost, below 10 degrees it stops and stops growing, loves temperatures around 15 at night and 25 during the day. This must be taken into account in particular at the time of planting: cultivation often fails because the courgettes are planted too early.
Soil preparation and fertilization
Before starting to grow zucchini in our garden we must take care of preparing the soil. The ideal would be to start in autumn, a period also indicated for good basic fertilization, in any case, I recommend working the soil at least 10 days before putting the plant or seeds.
The classic preparation of the soil involves digging, it is useful if the soil is cultivated regularly not to turn the clods, but to maintain the stratigraphy of the soil by limiting ourselves to tilling. We can do it with little effort using a fork instead of the classic spade.
Basic fertilization is particularly important, given the demands of this plant in terms of organic matter and nutrition. We then add compost and manure to the soil. There is no general rule on how much to fertilize zucchini, because it depends on the type of soil, take into account as an indicative reference 1 kg of dry manure (as in the case of pellets) per square meter, over five times as much if it is a matter of mature manure. We hope by incorporating the nutrients into the soil, then finish with a rake that goes to level the flowerbed where we will proceed with sowing or transplanting.
How and when to sow zucchini
Zucchini has a large seed, which germinates easily. We can decide to put it in the seedbed, to be repaired, or directly in the open field if the climate allows it.
Sowing in seedbed
Zucchini can be sown in March in a seedbed in protected cultivation, just place one seed for each jar, one cm deep with the tip facing downwards. If the temperature is around 20 degrees, the seed germinates in 4 days, if it is warmer, even less. The seedling can remain in the jar until 3 true leaves are formed, generally 15 or 20 days, then it must be transplanted.
Sowing in the open field
Sowing in the open field instead begins from mid-April, when the temperature stabilizes above 10/15 degrees, if it is colder, growth stops and the plants remain dwarf. For planting in the open air, 2 or 3 seeds are placed for each postarella, depth 1.5 cm. Let us also remember in this case to put the tip of the seed at the bottom.
The sixth plant
The courgettes are sown at distances of 100 x 80 cm at least between the plants, being demanding plants both in terms of space and nutrient they mustn’t be arranged too close.
Rotation and association
The courgette should be sown in rotation in the garden and not always on the same flower bed, both because it consumes a lot of nutrients and therefore it is better to leave time for the soil to recover, and because its diseases (such as powdery mildew) do not return from year to year. year. It is advisable to leave at least three years before returning to plant zucchini on the same plot of the garden and intersperse them with plants of the legume family that can enrich the soil with nitrogen.
Transplant the zucchini
If we decide to sow the zucchini in the seedbed, or if we simply buy the seedlings in the nursery, we will have to transplant them in the field. To plant zucchini it is very important to choose the right time, so that any late frosts do not take the young plant outdoors.
The rule is always to wait for temperatures to stay above 15 degrees, even at night.
From April or May, depending on the climate, we can then plant zucchini in the garden, an operation that can continue during the summer, also to give a replacement to the plants that over time lose productivity or can be affected by the white disease.
The last transplant can be done approximately around mid-August, with seeds planted at the beginning of the month.
After preparing the soil, the transplant work is very simple: you dig a hole destined to host the seedling with its earthen bread and put the seedling straight, compacting with your hands and irrigating immediately.
Recipes with zucchini
The organic cultivation of zucchini
Zucchini is not a difficult plant to grow, even organically. It requires some care during the summer that can keep this plant productive and healthy. Below I list the cultivation tips that can be useful to keep the courgette plants at their best.
Useful tips to improve production:
- Shade the plants in summer. The courgette with its large leaves fears excessive sunlight, in summer it can be useful to shade small plants with sheets or nets, especially at noon and especially in the gardens of southern Italy where the sun beats strong.
- Rotation of the plants. It is convenient to have the courgette produce for two months, the total cycle will be 3 months since it takes a month to arrive in production. After three months, it is better to re-sow it to avoid powdery mildew attacks.
- Anticipate the harvest (hot bed and covers). To anticipate the courgette harvest, you can make a hole in which to bury fresh manure under the seedbed. To repair the seedlings in the spring (March and April), plastic hats or polythene tunnels can be used.
- Supports. There are creeping varieties of courgette, it is worth supporting the stem with 120 cm poles to tie it to to have a better exposure to the sun, ventilate the plant and be more comfortable to harvest. Some courgettes are also grown as climbers, as is often done with cucumbers.
- Mulching. Mulching is a useful technique in growing zucchini, first of all because it reduces the work of weeding and weed control, saving a lot of effort for the horticulturist, secondly because it prevents the fruits from resting on the ground and when the soil is wet can save them from rot. You can mulch with either sheets or straw.
- Prune damaged parts of the plant. The stem of the courgette is quite fragile, you must be careful not to break the branches, if the plant is damaged when young it can emit lateral branches, once grown instead if it is damaged it stops producing. In case of hail that would ruin the leaves, those that are too tattered must be removed.
Remove the first courgettes
In some cases, it is useful to remove the first fruits of the plant. The courgette begins to produce early, but it may be better to remove the first courgettes, to let the energy concentrate on the development of the plant.
This is not a universal rule, in a well-fertilized soil the plant is able to bring even the first courgettes to maturity without effort, but in some cases, there is the risk of obtaining small and yellowish fruits unnecessarily.
Irrigation of zucchini
The courgette is a plant that requires a lot of water, because it produces many fruits that we go to pick and also because it has very large leaves that transpire, it must be wet at least twice a week. Better to irrigate early in the morning, under the foliage, thus trying not to wet the leaves, using water at room temperature. Obviously, after sowing or transplanting there is a particular need for watering, as with all plants in the garden.
Fertilization during production
It may be useful to go back to fertilizing the zucchini plant when it starts to produce, you can use nettle macerate or pelleted manure, the plant requires above all nitrogen and potassium. Generally, action is taken after the first flowers appear to stimulate better production.
Pollination and courgette flowers
The zucchini to produce the fruit requires pollination of the flower and it must be taken into account that there are male and female flowers. Pollination takes place in the morning, in good weather and temperatures that are not too low, if it rains the insects do not come out and the pollination day is lost.
If the courgette is not pollinated it becomes dark and the fruit is formed which rots. The small fruit must be immediately eliminated, with many small fruits the production of the plant stops. In the collection of flowers, of which you will find more detailed advice below, it is necessary to consider pollination and leave the females and some males. Better not to pick the flowers in the morning to let the pollinating insects work.
The cultivation in the tunnel is similar to that in the field, it can be useful to anticipate the period, since it allows you to transplant first in the field and also then to extend the harvest in late autumn.
In addition to the normal precautions required by greenhouse cultivation in the management of irrigation, air circulation and internal temperature, attention must be paid to pollination. This applies to tunnel zucchini but also if you grow this plant using tightly meshed anti-hail or anti-aphid nets. Care must be taken that bees and bumblebees can enter and exit freely, otherwise there is a risk that there is no pollination and therefore that the zucchini plants do not bear fruit, in short, no harvest.
Cultivation of zucchini in pots
We can decide to grow zucchini on the balcony too, but you need a good-sized pot and soil enriched with compost. Irrigation in the case of cultivation in pots must be more assiduous and regular, but always without excess. It also becomes useful to fertilize several times during the crop cycle, we can do it with nettle macerates or do-it-yourself liquid fertilizer.
Diseases and pests of the plant
To grow zucchini organically it is important to know the diseases of this vegetable and the main antagonistic insects, in order to be able to prevent problems or threats in a timely manner when they occur.
Erwinia carotovora. A fruit rot due to bacteriosis. This is how Erwinia Carotovora is recognized and fought in zucchini.
Powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that manifests itself as a white powder on the leaves of the plant and later causes the fruit to rot. It is prevented with a rotation of the crop, you must not leave the plant for more than three months. Sulfur can be used against powdery mildew as a phytosanitary treatment allowed in organic farming, taking into account a shortage period of one week that must be left from treatment until when you harvest the vegetable.
Virosis. Many viruses can affect the zucchini plant, these diseases cannot be combated but to prevent them it is important to avoid aphids and be careful when harvesting. The main means of transmission of virosis is in fact the harvesting tool (shear or knife), which by cutting transmits the disease. Beware of suspicious plants and if you find diseased plants they must be eliminated promptly. The viruses of cucurbits are various, for example the cucumber mosaic, the majority do not kill the plant but deform it and affect its production.
Aphids. Aphids are dangerous above all because they spread virus diseases, so it is important to defend the garden by fighting these plant lice.
How to collect
Harvesting the fruit may seem trivial, but doing it at the right time is important to ensure quality, but also to keep the plant productive.
Harvesting of courgettes
Zucchini is a fruit that is harvested unripe, without letting it swell too much. As the zucchini ripens, it becomes bitter, while a small to medium-sized crop is a better-tasting vegetable. Furthermore, after having produced three or four large fruits, the plant stops producing, while if the zucchini is picked promptly it continues to produce a daily fruit for two months.
Each plant can easily make a 150-gram zucchini per day, so two or three well-grown plants are enough in the family garden to cover the family’s consumption.
The courgette is harvested by taking the fruit in your hand and twisting the stalk gently, if you use a knife you must be careful not to transmit any plant diseases. Always be careful not to break the leaves, the wounds transmit virosis. If you want to learn more, you can read the article dedicated to the collection of zucchini.
The production of a zucchini plant begins one month after sowing and can continue until the first frost, with the lowering of temperatures the size of the fruits are reduced and the growth times increase (if a fruit develops in one day in July you need two in September and also 3 or 4 in October).
The collection of courgette flowers
The courgette flowers like those of the squash are delicious, both fried in batter and different recipes for sauces and risottos. Male flowers are distinguished from female ones (the male flowers at the base of the petals have a trumpet-shaped corolla), while the female flowers are shorter because they have the petiole with the ovary. They are all edible and it is better to leave the female flowers so that they can produce the fruit and pluck only the males. The collection of courgette flowers should not be done in the morning, after pollination has taken place, otherwise it can affect fruit production.
The plant is also eaten
The tops of the zucchini are edible, if you want to use them in the soup, remember when you go to remove the plant for rotation. Buds are also a little-known but highly sought-after vegetable, especially in some areas of Lombardy.
Varieties of courgette to grow
There are numerous varieties of zucchini, of different shapes, colors, and flavors, the plants are also distinguished by being more or less precocious. Here are some excellent zucchini cultivars, optimal for the family garden:
- Zucchino president. Classic courgette with an elongated shape, with dark green skin, good production, strongly subject to powdery mildew.
- Round Tuscan courgette. Fleshy courgette, ideal to be cooked stuffed.
- Roman courgette. Excellent variety of medium size, elongated courgette with streaks on the skin and very sweet pulp.
- Crookneck. “Gooseneck” shaped zucchini with yellow pulp.
- Trumpet or Genoese courgette. Fruit with a particular narrow and long tubular shape with swelling at the end.
Zucchini in the kitchen
After harvesting the vegetables, the problem arises of how to cook them, in particular since zucchini are a very productive plant that grows their needs to always invent new recipes to be able to bring them to the table often without always eating the same ones. what’s this.
For this reason, in the recipes section of Special-food, the many recipes with zucchini find a special place, from appetizers to main courses and side dishes we learn many variations to prepare this excellent vegetable and also some ideas on its conservation, such as making pickled zucchini or even dried.
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