From Too Many Chefs - www.toomanychefs.com

July 9, 2006
Calling all gardeners: zucchini advice needed!

zukes06.jpg

I have only had moderate success growing zucchini on my terrace. The first time I tried, I had four gorgeous plants that grew so quickly that I was obliged to go out and buy larger planters as even a novice zucchini grower like me could see that they were stifling in the small narrow planters. It's true I grew up in the Midwest and helped my mother and grandmothers in their vegetable gardens every summer, but it had been 15 years since I'd personally seen how large a zucchini plant can grow (answer=very). So the first batch of plants had lots of foilage with many beautiful flowers, followed by a few misshapen fruit, skinny and wrinkled on one end and round and glossy on the other.

When we moved into our new home in the 17th, I planted them in a much deeper square planter and awaited with great anticipation some nice big zucchini. Again, I had lots of big healthy leaves, loads of flowers and then...they just withered away. Before you can ask, yes I was watering them daily so it didn't seem to be a drought related problem.

Fast-forward to this year. I dragged the deep planter to the sunniest corner of the terrace. Previously, they had been in a more convenient spot in terms of traffic on the terrace, under the eaves of the roof. So I worked on the theory that on our Northwest-facing terrace the plants would need some help getting enough sunshine.

Please excuse the long-winded history of zucchini growing. I'm getting to the point.

It seems to be working: loads of big green leaves, loads of flowers and loads of zucchini. BUT. If you look a little closer in the photo, you'll see that the two vegetables closest to the camera are looking fine, just about large enough to harvest and very healthy. But some of the ones lower down are all wrinkled and unhealthy looking. Should I harvest the entire lot of zucchini, healthy and unhealthy and hope that it will flower and fruit again? I gave it a little worm tea (liquid fertiliser from my wormery) earlier in the summer; does it need more? Or more water? Should I have pruned back to only two or three zucchinis earlier in the season, on the basis that a plant can only support so many vegetables at once?

Let the experienced gardeners out there please come forward and guide me; I find it embarrassing that the one plant that my grandmother and mother grew to over-abundance with no effort at all is escaping me!

(Oh and if you have any advice on getting spinach to grow to a decent size - i.e. more than four leaves - before bolting that would be most welcome too. *sigh*)

Posted by Meg in Sussex at July 9, 2006 1:13 PM
Comments

The one thing I can say about the zucchini problem is in the second year, it sounds like you had "blossom end drop," which is a malfunction of pollination, which is usually caused by a fungus that grows from too much moisture.

I do remember, and just read that summer squash are very heavy feeders--and the organic gardening books I have all say to use application of fertilizer, like your worm tea, every two weeks during the growing season. Container plants are especially heavy feeders, because their root systems are restricted to the planters--they can go no farther than the pot to get their nutrients.

As for spinach--plant it in either very early spring or fall. Do not expect a crop in the summer in the heat. It will not happen. Spinach is a cold weather crop, and that is how it is. You might be able to find a heat tolerant variety, but if you want something that tastes like spinach (only for cooking--raw, it tastes kind of icky) opt for malabar spinach. A totally different plant, but if you are going to cook it, it tastes like spinach.

Young chard, raw tastes sort of like spinach and it is much more heat tolerant.

Posted by Barbara on July 9, 2006 at 2:08 PM

Brilliant, thanks Barbara!

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 9, 2006 at 2:24 PM

If you want a spinach-like green in the summer you could grow amaranth instead. I don't know how easily you can find that in Paris, however.

Posted by oscar on July 9, 2006 at 3:19 PM

oscar, I'm not even sure what it's called, but I'll try to find out. The thing about the spinach is that I planted it in March. We had such a crappy spring, though, that it never really progressed until mid-June, when I guess the weather was - suddenly and exremely - too hot for it.

I'm always reading in newspapers about lettuce plants that are easy to grow but so far have not had much luck. I had a few arugula strands a couple of years ago, but they also bolted quickly. Back when we lived in the 16th I managed three tiny heads of perpetual lettuce, but they never yielded more than enough for a half a salad at a time altogether. Some day I'll find that mythical easy to grow lettuce! (Maybe Amaranth??!?)

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 9, 2006 at 4:10 PM

It sounds like you're doing everything correctly in terms of sunshine, watering, etc.; the reason your zucchini are withering is simply that the zucchini blossoms aren't being pollinated. All types of squash grow in the same way -- first they produce what looks like a miniature version of the squash, so you think you're being a master gardener and are very proud of yourself, and then they bloom for one day. If they're not pollinated that day, the little squash will get all squishy and fade away. It's confusing because most (all?) other plants flower first, and then produce the fruit after pollination. You must not be getting enough bee traffic between your zucchini blossoms. To pollinate the zucchini yourself, stick your finger in the blossoms and transfer the pollen between them. Good luck!

Posted by Elizabeth on July 9, 2006 at 5:47 PM

It sounds like you're doing everything correctly in terms of sunshine, watering, etc.; the reason your zucchini are withering is simply that the zucchini blossoms aren't being pollinated. All types of squash grow in the same way -- first they produce what looks like a miniature version of the squash, so you think you're being a master gardener and are very proud of yourself, and then they bloom for one day. If they're not pollinated that day, the little squash will get all squishy and fade away. It's confusing because most (all?) other plants flower first, and then produce the fruit after pollination. You must not be getting enough bee traffic between your zucchini blossoms. To pollinate the zucchini yourself, stick your finger in the blossoms and transfer the pollen between them. Good luck!

Posted by Elizabeth on July 9, 2006 at 5:48 PM

I cannot offer any great advice but I can offer sympathy. I am in the same boat.
My sister who I gave plants to had more zucchini than a Farmers Market. I had.. two.
The next year I had none. It has followed that exact pattern.

I, however, have surrendered this year. I am buying from the local farmers down the road. They have a bumper crop.. again in the same conditions as I had. Sigh.

I will be interested to see what is said on your problem. Perhaps I will find my solution here too.

Posted by philocrates on July 9, 2006 at 7:42 PM

Elizabeth, thanks for the tip - I'll try pollinating tonight! Probably too late for the ones I have, but you never know...

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 10, 2006 at 4:06 AM

I wish I had the patience to grow my own produce. For me the second best thing is getting it at a farmer's market on weekends.

Posted by Justin Lo on July 10, 2006 at 7:44 AM

Here's one tip - save those blossoms, pluck the stamens, and sautee them in a little olive oil or butter and garlic. They go into tacos with cheese and guacamole or plain avocade very well.

I got nothing on how to grow them.

Posted by barrett on July 10, 2006 at 9:31 AM

I would recommend only having a few of the fruits growing at a time so that the plant can focus on making them as good as possible. I know that's what you have to do with pepper plants, because they go crazy flowering.

Fertilizer is pretty much always a good thing with container plants, but make sure you don't "burn" the plants (too much, sometimes too soon).

Hope this is any help...

Posted by Julianna on July 10, 2006 at 12:30 PM

I live in California and can't get anything to grow, except weeds. I'm not convinced California is all that great a place to grow plants.

This year I hired a landscaper to put in a flower bed. I water it ever day and it isn't dead yet.

I grow flowers, they don't die.

Biggles

Posted by Dr. Biggles on July 10, 2006 at 6:47 PM

The best thing I can suggest is to build a catapult (using plans from http://www.trebuchet.com/plans.html) and launch the zucchini at some neighbor you dislike. But then I've never liked zooks, not even fresh from the garden.

Posted by Cambias on July 11, 2006 at 8:34 PM

I am so glad that I found this posting...it has been extremely helpful for me because I have been having the exact same problem with my zucchini! Actually, mine is worse...I'm not getting ANY fruit. True, the bee traffic in the area that I am growing in is not great, so that could be a factor. Now that I know how to self-pollinate, perhaps I will try that. I have three hills of very healthy looking plants with large, bright blossoms - I'm just not getting any vegetables. I thought perhaps the heavy rains we'd had for so many weeks in the spring and early summer were a factor (and perhaps they have been as well), but the pollination issue will be the first step I will take.
Thanks for posting - this has been helpful!

Posted by Megan on July 12, 2006 at 11:19 AM

I also get nice lookig plants, lots of beautiful flowers and hardly any zucchini. This is the 3rd year in a row! I used to be drowning in zucchini. I also will try the pollination thing.
Mickey

Posted by Mickey on August 4, 2006 at 9:34 PM

I am growing zucchini and I have had lots of flowers. They open and then close...then, several day later, they drop off! I've had about 10 flowers that have dropped off, leaving just a stalk behind. Why?? I won't get any zucchini at this rate!

Posted by Z on November 28, 2007 at 5:27 PM

Growing zucchihnis is the same in Australia.
Fifteen years ago (or around about that)
there was no problem. We had plenty of bees to do the pollinating. But now there are not many bees around. I think it could oe because of the presence of the dreaded
European wasp.
Anyway the thing you have to do is look at the plants first. Look for the flowers. The male ones are on the end of thin stalks and
longer than the females. The female flowers are on shorter and thicker stalks - these are the vegetable - if you can get them going!
Wait till the sun shines and the flowers open
then transfer the pollen from the male to the female - I use a cotton bud and it works ok - does the trick.
It's almost like - boom boom!

Graeme.

Posted by Graeme on January 5, 2008 at 6:32 AM

I ALSO GET GOOD LOOKING PLANTS,
THE FLOWERS ARE BEAUITFUL FOR 2 MONTH I HAVE HAD MY GORDEN, NOT ONE ZUCCHINI , THE PLANTS LOOK LIKE YOUR PICTURE. I AM GLAD I FOUND THIS SIGHT IT IS A BIG HELP.BY THE WAY I DO HAVE BEE TRAFFIC.

Posted by ELIZABETH on July 20, 2008 at 9:36 PM

We are in the bahamas and have the same problem: beautiful and plentiful blooms on my zucchini plants, but they drop off before fruiting - will try self-pollination and post results!

Posted by katie on January 31, 2009 at 11:50 AM

Lots of good imput, however, does anyone out there know if after the male blossom blooms can it be removed, leaving the female which bears the fruit? Does the male suck nutrients that could go to female helping to mature the fruit.

Posted by jan on July 8, 2009 at 7:45 PM

somebody can tell me why the flowers on my zucchini tree are all falling down?
thanks

Posted by salwa on July 12, 2011 at 12:42 PM