|Zucchini plants fruited continuous till mid-April|
Now on to the last post - Zucchini. I don't think my family has strong feelings about zucchini squash one way or another.
It's one of those vegetables I regularly throw into stews and soups, use to make breads and cakes etc. Basically it's just there, adding its flavour to our meals but not standing out. I like it.
I also like the fact that it's a prolific producer and that a few bushes can keep you in zucchini all season and you'd still have plenty more to freeze for winter.
How to grow zucchini
Site selection: Choose a space where your zucchini will have room to spread out a little, or you can stake it to grow upwards. You can also plant your zucchini among vegetables that don't like too much sun so that its large leaves can act as a little umbrella for them.
Soil preparation: Zucchini likes warm, soil that is loamy (i.e. soil that is made up of sand, silt and clay in relatively even concentration.) and very well composted. That said, it has performed well enough in my well-composted clay soil.
Planting process: Each of my y zucchini yielded around two fruit per week through the season, though I've heard some people say theirs produced a much higher yield.
Decide how many seeds you want to plant and then sow the seeds 2.5cm (1inch) deep in your soil, then water them. I usually just mulch the planted area and leave it alone, but you can also cover the seeds with cloches or horticultural fleece if the weather is still cool in the season.
Caring for the plant: When the seedlings have developed, thin out the plants to leave the strongest ones. Water the plant at least once a week under the plant (to reach the root system, not on the leaves). This ensures that your plant gets as much water as possible, as zucchini is a thirsty plant. Feed your plant occasionally once it starts flowering and bringing forth fruit to encourage it to fruit as much as possible.
In terms if pests and diseases, one of my crops tended to have the blossom ends of my zucchini turn black and rot. I later found out that the condition was caused by uneven soil moisture levels and wide fluctuations between wet and dry soil. I couldn't do much about that, as we were going through a drought at the time. But unless you have a drought, try to make sure that you water the plant deeply and that your water is directed into the soil around your plant.
If your zucchini is sort of bent and has a hole or dippled area, check for stink bugs in your garden. I had the orange and black type and ended up waging a bitter battle on time to protect my protect. This included picking the bugs off by hand, spraying with garlic and water mix and mint and water mix (separately). I also tried a bit of cayenne pepper, just in case.
The next season, I increased my percentage of beneficial plants like marigolds and nasturtiums in the garden to attract the bugs away from my crops, as they eat everything.
Harvesting: Once the zucchini plant flowers and starts to bring forth fruit, feed your plant fertilize occasionally for vigorous growth and lots of fruits. I tend to pick the zucchini around once a week from each plant, though you can harvest more frequently if your plant is a heavy producer.
Serving suggestions: We usually just throw zucchini into soups and stews. Sometimes I even grate it in.. and you don't have to "know" it's there for you to enjoy its benefits. But my favourite way to serve zucchini is in bread.
Basically, I follow this recipe found at the Down to Earth forums, but then I add a cup of grated zucchini once the bread had been fully proofed. I'm not sure the originators of the recipe intended for it to be adapted like that, but it makes a really nice savoury snack for the family.