If you love tossing summer squash on the grill, then you’ve got to try growing your own zucchini. The skin will be so tender, the flavor delicious.

Growing zucchini from seed is my favorite way to start this veggie in my garden . Don’t let that intimidate you if you’re a beginner gardener. Let’s look at the different types of zucchini you can grow, the steps to plant zucchini, and then some best gardening practices to maintain healthy plants

Growing Zucchini a Step by Step Guide

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HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT ZUCCHINI SEEDS FOR YOUR GARDEN

You can grow two different types of zucchini in your vegetable garden: vining zucchini or bush zucchini. 

Vining Zucchini

Vining types require either more room to sprawl or a trellis to climb. These plants have a more slender stem ideal for being trained up a trellis. If you have a sturdy support structure in your garden, growing this type will ultimately require less space because you can train the growth up. 

Bush Zucchini

Bush types are more compact plants, but they need about 2 feet of garden space to themselves to ensure they have enough room. These plants have thicker stems and big leaves

Growing Zucchini from Seed - Bush vs Climbing Zucchini

Popular Zucchini Varieties to Grow

Here are some popular choices to consider for your garden: 

Classic zucchini is dark green, but there are yellow, striped, and even round varieties! If you just want to start with the classic green zucchini, go with Black Beauty. If you have limited space, look for bush varieties that take up less room, like Astia container zucchini

Some zucchini varieties have built-in resistance to common diseases like powdery mildew. This can be a big help, especially for new gardeners.

WHEN TO PLANT ZUCCHINI SEEDS

Zucchini is one of those warm-season crops that thrive when temps are in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Wait until your last frost date has passed before you plant zucchini in your home garden. I like to wait a week or two after all danger of frost has passed to ensure the soil temperatures are warm enough for the seeds to sprout. 

Pro Tip:

If you live in a hot climate, your plants might stop producing fruit once your temps are regularly over 95°F. Your plants will survive if you keep them well-watered, but you run the risk of them attracting more pests while they’re stressed by the heat. Consider removing your plants and replanting in the late summer for a fall crop.

 

Sow seeds throughout your growing season for a more continual harvest. You can continue to sow zucchini seeds until you’re about 60 days out from your first frost. Here in Austin, my first frost date isn’t until mid-November, so I can continue succession sowing zucchini through mid-September and still be able to harvest before frost.

 

WHERE TO PLANT ZUCCHINI SEEDS

 

Your top priority is to choose a site that gets full sun. Zucchini plants need at least 6 hours of sun but are much more productive with 8 or more hours a day.

Growing Zucchini in a Raised Bed

I like to grow zucchini in a raised garden bed filled with well-drained soil that’s full of nutrients. If you’re growing a bush type, you can plant it on the edge of the bed so that it can drape over the side and take up a little less space. 

For vining types, plant them right next to a trellis. (Learn more about growing zucchini on a trellis.)

Growing Zucchini from Seed - Growing in Raised Beds

Growing Zucchini in the Ground

If you plan to grow zucchini in the ground, you may need to amend your soil before planting. Loosen clay-heavy soil up by adding in coarse sand and compost. Learn more about growing in clay soil here.

Growing Zucchini in a Container 

You can grow zucchini in pots or containers at least 18” wide and 12” deep. Make sure the container you choose has at least one hole in the bottom for good drainage. Add an obelisk trellis to the container if you’re growing a vining type.

 Grow just one zucchini plant per pot, and check on the soil moisture frequently.. (Learn more about gardening in containers.) 

HOW TO PLANT ZUCCHINI SEEDS

Zucchini seedlings don’t handle being moved well, so follow these steps to direct sow seeds for best results

Step One: Prepare the Soil

Spread a 2”- to 3”-thick layer of fresh compost over the planting area. If you want to encourage your zucchini plants to grow sturdy roots a little faster, you could also add a dash of mycorrhizae to the soil. 

If you plan to use a trellis, go ahead and install it now. 

Step Two: Sow the Seeds

Space your seeds about 12” to 18” apart. The closer you plant them, the more diligent you’ll have to be in pruning the leaves and supporting the plants (more on that later). 

Zucchini seeds should be buried about ½” to 1″ deep.

Step Two: Water Them In

Water the planting area well. Maintain consistent soil moisture while you’re waiting on the zucchini seeds to germinate. Zucchini typically sprouts in 1 to 2 weeks. 

If you’re growing a bush variety, come back out in a couple weeks and plant more seeds so that you’ll have a more continuous squash harvest. 

Growing Zucchini from Seed - Zucchini Sprouts

HOW TO CARE FOR ZUCCHINI PLANTS

Zucchini plants love warm weather and tons of sun, but they’re not cut out for heat. If summer temps are reaching 95°F, consider using a floating row cover or shade cloth to protect them and prevent them from dropping their blossoms.

Other than that, your tending tasks will include watering, fertilizing, pruning, making sure the flowers are getting pollinated, and tying your plants to stakes or trellises. 

Watering Zucchini

For the best-tasting fruits, keep your plants watered throughout the growing season. If the soil feels dry 1” down, it’s time to water again. Aim to give your plants about 1” of water per week total.

In warm, dry periods, you may need to water every day to prevent wilted leaves. 

The best time to water is in the early morning. Water deeply, aim your water right at the base of the plants, and avoid splashing splashing water on the leaves to deter fungal disease. 

The best way to deliver deep, consistent moisture to your vegetable garden is with drip irrigation. Garden in Minutes is a great DIY kit for installing drip irrigation in your garden.

Shop Garden Grid Watering Systems

Fertilizing Zucchini

Zucchini plants are heavy feeders. That’s why I like to grow them in raised beds filled with nutrient-rich soil. That and adding organic matter like compost at the time of planting will ensure young plants have all the nutrients they need. 

Once your plants are forming their first flowers, start giving them fertilizer high in phosphorus and potassium to help them with fruiting. My go-to fertilizer for squash plants is MicroLife’s Maximum Blooms. It’s a liquid fertilizer you can add to a watering can before giving your plants a good soak. Repeat application every 2 to 4 weeks.

 

Pruning Zucchini

Pruning is an important task to keep zucchini plants healthy.

Each week, remove any damaged or yellowed zucchini leaves from your plants. It’s also good practice to remove any lower leaves that are touching the soil, especially if you’re growing in the ground. This provides good air circulation around each plant, gives the plant more energy to focus on fruit production, and even deters pests and disease. 

Pro Tip:

Your zucchini plant only needs leaves up top to get energy from the sun, so don’t hesitate to remove those older leaves from the bottom of the plant.

 

Make sure to use clean pruners, and cut leaves right at their base. Wear gloves and long sleeves if your plants have little spikes to avoid skin irritation.

Ensuring Good Pollination of Female Flowers for a Bountiful Harvest

It’s always a good idea to grow lots of flowers in or around your vegetable garden to attract pollinators. 

If your plants are forming lots of flowers but few fruits or if the fruits are shriveling up and falling off, it’s likely a pollination issue. You may need to step in and make sure every female zucchini flower gets pollinated. This is called hand pollination.

First, look behind the flower to distinguish male from female flowers. The females will have a little bulge that will become the mature zucchini fruit

Then, use a Q-tip or a little paintbrush to swab the inside of a male flower. Gently transfer pollen from the male flower onto the center of the female zucchini flower. You can also just pluck the male flower, open the petals, and rub it on the female flower. 

Growing Zucchini from Seed - Female Zucchini Flower

Supporting Zucchini with Stakes or Trellises

Even though bush types don’t need a trellis, it’s still a good idea to hold them upright to prevent pests and disease. Use garden stakes and some twine to support each plant. 

For vining types, you’ll need to tie the vines to the structure with some twine to hold them in place for the first few weeks of growth. Otherise, strong winds could knock them over. You may need to come back in with more twine to support vines bearing large fruit later. 

HOW TO PROTECT ZUCCHINI PLANTS FROM PESTS & DISEASE

Unfortunately, zucchini plants are prone to pest problems and disease. Here are 3 tips to prevent a number of common issues when you’re growing squash plants.

Tip #1: Use Row Covers

The best way to prevent common pests like squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and squash vine borers is by covering your plants with garden mesh or row covers. You’ll place the cover the day of planting and leave it on until your zucchini needs to be pollinated (or just hand-pollinate). 

Tip #2: Check on Plants Daily

If you’re not covering your plants, then you should do daily checks of the stems and leaves. Look for tiny reddish brown dots (squash vine borer eggs) and scrape them off the plant. Hand pick any cucumber beetles or squash bugs you see and toss them into soapy water. 

You can use products like Arber Bio Insecticide to help prevent pest infestations by spraying your zucchini plants weekly. 

Tip #3: Keep Leaves Dry & Off the Ground

Fungal disease like powdery mildew is common in warm, humid environments. To prevent disease, prune leaves and keep climbing varieties tied to the trellis to keep leaves off the soil. Don’t let your plants get overcrowded, and avoid overhead watering

Growing Zucchini From Seed - Powdery Mildew

If you notice what looks like white powder on your leaves, remove affected leaves and then thoroughly spray the rest of your plant with a fungicide like Arber Fungicide or Captain Jack’s Copper Fungicide. Reapply after it rains. 

HOW TO HARVEST ZUCCHINI FRUITS

Zucchini is typically ready to harvest about 45 to 55 days after planting. 

One thing to keep in mind is that zucchini is edible at any size. It’s best to pick the fruits when they’re a little smaller than what you see at the store. They’re sweeter and more tender when they’re still young. Plus, these guys can turn into inedible monsters practically overnight. 

I recommend checking the back of your seed packet to see how large fruits are expected to be at harvest. You’ll see something like “best picked at 4″–5″ long”—that’s when you’ll get the best flavor. 

To harvest fruit, use a clean knife or pruners to cut the stem about an inch above the fruit. Keep this little bit of stem attached to prevent the fruit from molding or drying out. 

Harvest often to encourage your plants to keep producing fruit for you. You can typically expect between 25 to 30 fruits per plant. 

Growing Zucchini from Seed - When to Harvest Your Zucchini

HOW TO SAVE & ENJOY ZUCCHINI FRUITS

Avoid rinsing your fruits until you’re ready to enjoy them. Zucchini keeps the longest in the fridge. Poke a couple holes in a plastic baggie and store in your crisper drawer. 

Zucchini is such a versatile vegetable in the kitchen. You can steam it, sauté it, grill it, add it to soups, and even eat it raw in salads.

HOW TO SAVE ZUCCHINI SEEDS FOR NEXT YEAR

Near the end of your growing season, allow a few zucchinis to remain on the plant until they are fully ripe and turn yellow. Once the skin becomes hard and the zucchini feels heavy, harvest it. 

Cut the zucchini open and scoop out the seeds. Place them in a bowl and allow them to dry  completely for a few days before storage. Now you have seeds for next year! 

Enjoy the Fruits of Your Zucchini Growing Labor! 

Let me know your favorite ways to eat zucchini in the comments below. And of course if you have any questions I will be happy to answer!