The Wonderful World Of Zucchini Plants
Zucchini plants are not terribly difficult to grow, in fact are rather fun to grow. If you like bountiful harvests, zucchini is the plant for you. You can barely walk by a plant without it sprouting new fruit. By having several of these plants in your vegetable garden, you can supply the whole neighborhood. In fact, after awhile they'll be locking their doors when they see you coming down the street with another armload of zucchini.
This is a bit of an exaggeration of course, but the zucchini plant is a prolific producer, and it is fun to grow. A member of the squash and pumpkin family, it's a great plant for a youngster's first garden. A single plant may be enough for a small garden, as the zucchini plant tends to spread rather rapidly, taking over the space claimed by other plants. So it must be trimmed back at times. The vines can be taught to climb, but will become very heavy when they start to bear fruit so will need to be supported. Unless you have a real space problem, training the plant to climb is probably not worth the effort.
Preparing The Soil - Zucchini is a warm weather plant so wait until the danger of frost is past before planting seeds or setting out transplants. It grows quickly, so you can wait until fairly late in the spring if you wish before planting. Zucchini plants should be located where they'll get full sun, in soil that drains well. The soil doesn't have to be overly fertile, and zucchini as a rule doesn't require much in the way of fertilizer. Unless the soil is extremely poor, you should get a good crop. Fertilizing of course can give you a better crop if more zucchini than you can handle is your goal. Mixing a little compost or manure into the soil at planting time is a good idea. That should be all the feeding you need to provide.
Planting Zucchini - Zucchini plants can be planted in rows but placing the plants in mounds is preferable, or you'll risk getting a crowded tangle of vines. Place the mounds at least 3 feet apart and put 4 to 6 seeds in each mound. Not all of the seeds will necessarily germinate properly, but you should get at least two good plants in a mound. If you get more, just thin out to the strongest plant or two. Plants will normally bear fruit that is ready for harvest in about 50 days. The blossoms are fairly large, typical of squash and pumpkin plants, and are both male and female. The female blossoms are the ones that bear fruit, and you can tell them by the small bulb which forms at the end of the blossom. Male blossoms don't have this bulb. After the bloom has died back, the bulb will rapidly turn into a long cylindrical light green fruit. The zucchini is at its best for eating when the fruit is 4 to 6 inches long. It get much larger, weighing several pounds, but the skin soon begins to turn a darker shade of green, and becomes very tough, eventually becoming inedible. The very young, tender fruits can be sliced for use in a salad without the need to peel them.
Make Some Zucchini Bread - Most everyone you'll ever meet will like zucchini bread once they've tasted it, and many people grow zucchini plants for that purpose alone. A quick recipe for this wonderful bread is as follows:
To 3 cups of all-purpose flower, add one teaspoon each of baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and three teaspoons of cinnamon. Sift into a bowl. In another bowl mix together and beat 3 eggs, one cup of vegetable oil, 2 1/4 cups of sugar, and three teaspoons of vanilla extract. Add the sifted ingredients to this and beat well. Then fold in 2 cups of grated zucchini and a cup of chopped walnuts. Pour the batter into greased bread pans and bake for about 45 minutes. Poke the baking bread at this time with a knife. If the blade comes out clean, the bread is done. Cool the bread on a rack, and when completely cool, enjoy.