Zucchini is one of the most popular varieties of summer squash because it grows quickly and easily in many climates. Although they're traditionally dark green, zucchini can also be yellow, striped, speckled or even nearly white. Gardeners plant zucchini seeds in full sun, one-inch deep directly in well-drained, fertile soil once after the danger of frost has passed. Single seeds should be planted 24 to 36 inches apart or four to five seeds to a hill, with hills spaced 48 inches apart. Seed packets provide spacing instructions for specific zucchini varieties. Seeds can be planted from early spring to mid-summer to produce zucchinis from late summer to fall.
The plants will take four to nine days to emerge from seed, depending on the soil temperature. Vines will develop rapidly and spread across a wide area. The plant will sprout blossoms, male and female, after about six weeks. Only female blossoms bear fruit, but male blossoms are necessary for pollination. Bees carry pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. If small fruit forms but withers and falls off the vine, pollination has not occurred. Planting flowers near the squash plants encourages bee to pollinate the plants.
Once blossoms appear and pollination takes place, zucchini will grow quickly in the warm weather and may be ready to pick in as few as four days or up to a week. Harvest zucchini when it is about 2 inches in diameter and about 6 to 8 inches long. Don't allow the squash to get too big or overripe, or it will be tough and seedy. For more delicate texture, zucchini can be harvested when it is even smaller. The blossoms can also be used in gourmet dishes. Zucchini should be ready to pick about two months after it is planted. Once you've started harvesting, continuing to pick the squash encourages the plant to produce more. Cutting the zucchini off with a knife prevents damage to the plant. Zucchini can be stored for up to two weeks. By late summer, many gardeners find they have so much zucchini they can't give it away fast enough. There's even a national day in celebration of the phenomenon: August 8 is National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Night.
Kate Carpenter is a reporter and designer based in Pocatello, Idaho. She has worked as a writer, designer and copy editor for three years, and she earned a degree in magazine editing and design from the University of Missouri in 2007.