Zucchini (or courgettes as they are known here in Europe) are fast growing, productive and robust, making them one of the easiest vegetables to grow. They are a perfect choice for beginner gardeners.
You Will Need:
- Organic zucchini seed
- Small containers for seedlings
- Large containers for adult plants (five gallons minimum—the bigger the better!)
- Some high-quality organic potting compost
- A sheltered sunny spot (If you live in a cold climate then you can grow them in greenhouses. It's best not to plant them outdoors until all chances of frost have passed.)
- Organic fertilizer
- Straw mulch
- Trellis or bamboo poles (optional)
Growing Zucchini From Seed
The best way to get organic zucchini seed is to buy it from a reputable garden centre or online store. You can also get seeds from the zucchini squash itself, but it has to be a very mature large one—they are usually harvested while still small before the seeds have developed, so it's easier to buy the seeds in packets.
Before sowing the seeds, I find it helps to soak them in room-temperature water overnight. This seems to make them germinate faster.
Sow the seeds in small pots by making a small hole one inch deep and pressing the seed into it on its side. Cover and water gently, keeping them moist until they sprout in approximately seven days.
The first two leaves to appear are not true leaves; these are called cotyledons. Once the seedlings have grown at least two "true" adult leaves, they will be big enough to be hardened off and planted in larger containers outside. Depending on the climate you live in, they can be grown directly outdoors or in a greenhouse. If you don't have space outdoors, you can grow them indoors by a sunny windowsill too—but be warned, zucchini plants get BIG!
Transferring Seedlings Outdoors
"Hardening off" means preparing the seedlings for outdoor life. Seedlings are pretty weak and delicate, so it takes them time to adjust to the great outdoors. The trick is to help them adjust little by little. Put the seedlings out for one or two hours for the first couple of days, in the shade. Then one hour per day in direct sun gradually increasing the time per day, but don't overdo it too soon or they may wither.
Once they start to adjust, the leaves will turn a darker green, and they will be ready to leave outdoors all the time.
Bear in mind that they will probably need more watering once outside, especially in a hot sunny climate (perfect for zucchini growing). Container plants always need watering more often than plants in the ground. This is where mulching comes in—using a mulch can help to keep a plant healthy and hydrated during hot weather, so be sure to cover the top of the soil with straw mulch or a good alternative.
In addition to plenty of watering, start to fertilize the plants with an organic fertilizer every two weeks or so.
The whole point of organic gardening is to avoid pesticides or genetically modified seeds that produce these poisons internally.
Pests can be a big problem for organic gardeners. Apart from handpicking bugs and caterpillars off the plants or strategically placing plants that are natural deterrents close by, there are a few other methods you can try:
- Insect warfare—ladybirds, wasps, spiders—all good for getting rid of the pests on your plants!
- Soapy water—spraying leaves with mild soapy water is usually enough to deter aphids and other leaf pests
- Diatomaceous earth—effective for preventing vine borers, slugs
- BT—supposedly a natural protein, it kills all kinds of caterpillars without harming other insect life (such as bees which are often harmed by pesticides). It can be found in most garden centres. I prefer not to use BT unless I really have to though.
Growing Zucchini on a Trellis
Zucchini plants, as I may have mentioned before, grow big. They are trailing vines, so unless you want your plants to spill over the edges of their pots and trail over the ground, it's best to stake or trellis them.
Plants that are growing upright are usually healthier too, because the air can circulate better, which helps to avoid rotting and disease. For containers, the best method I have found is to attach a wire mesh trellis to a wall behind the plant as this ensures the plants are very stable when they grow up it. Feel free to experiment with other methods though, depending on your outdoor space and resources.
Pollinating and Harvesting Zucchini
Zucchini plants start to produce fruit very fast, sometimes as soon as six weeks after planting! The plants will produce male and female flowers, distinguishable by the thickness of their stems. The males have thin stems and the females thick ones, the latter looking like mini zucchini as soon as they grow. The females must be pollinated by the males for the fruit to form properly.
If you find that the zucchini growing on your plants are very small or withered looking and drop off, you may have a problem with pollination. This can be remedied by pollinating the female flowers by hand. How to pollinate by hand? Well, it's simple. Break off a male flower, remove the petals to reveal the pollen covered stamen and rub this on the stigma of the female flower. Voila! If you don't like the idea of breaking off a male flower, you can use a cotton swab to transfer the pollen instead.
When harvesting zucchini, cut them off with a sharp knife. They are best when they are still small; no more than two inches thick. The smaller the better when it comes to flavour!
The flowers are also edible and can be eaten raw in salads or cooked. Try frying them lightly with butter and garlic—there's nothing quite like it.
And now you know all you need to start growing organic zucchini in containers.
Hannah Flack on March 16, 2020:
this was wonderful! Thank you for sharing all these tips and recipes..really helps those of us without the create gene;)
Diana Grant from United Kingdom on July 06, 2019:
I bought some zuchini plants last week at a car boot sale, and they are already flowering, so finding your article today has been very helpful, as I didn't know how to identify male and female flowers and didn't know that they grow on the same plant. Fortunately lots of bees come to my London garden as I try to attract them (and butterflies) with heavily polinated flowers, so I assume the bees will do the pollinating without my intervention.
JosephSorbara from New York,NY on May 01, 2013:
Zucchini = courgettes This information is much appreciated as I am making a trip to Europe soon specifically Monaco!
Susan Bailey from South Yorkshire, UK on April 30, 2013:
I grew some marvellous courgettes in containers on my patio here in the UK a couple of years ago. I had so many I was constantly trying to few new ways of using them up. I put them in soups, cakes and muffins and all kinds of things. I didn't do so well with the aubergines, only harvested about 3 from 4 plants. Nice informative hub.
RTalloni on April 29, 2013:
I am looking forward to giving this a try--thanks!
LevitaG on April 29, 2013:
Very informative, this is great and very useful, thanks!
Karla D on April 28, 2013:
Thanks for this useful hub, I will be planting zucchinis here soon now that I know how simple it is to do!
Marlene Bertrand from USA on April 17, 2013:
This is very helpful. I just planted zuccini in a container. Then, I wondered what to do next. I learned a lot from reading your tips here. Thank you.
Robyn D Bera from California on April 15, 2013:
I've been growing organic Zucchini for years in my garden. I grow giant ones in the ground for stuffing and small ones in pots. Thanks for sharing. Everyone should have a garden!
Author Victoria Sheffield from Georgia on April 12, 2013:
much needed! I love organic gardening!
Chris Achilleos on April 11, 2013:
Very useful hub. I recently moved and want to start planting. Since it grows so quickly, I think my first one will be Zucchini :) Thank you for sharing the advice. Voted up and useful!
SJLA from Indiana on April 03, 2013:
Thanks for the info I love Zucchini bread and I am OK at gardening. Let us hope for the best. I really want to give this a try.
Susan Crowson from Texas on April 03, 2013:
I may have to try this. We have a lot of gophers who gnaw on the roots when I plant vegetables in the ground. Maybe the containers will keep the plant safer. Thanks for the great directions.
twig22bend on April 03, 2013:
Great instructions. I would like to try growing zucchini. You make it look so easy. Thanks for sharing.
Eco-Lhee from Alberta, Canada on April 03, 2013:
I have a pet rabbit and he eats everything, I am thinking that vertical container gardening this year, might be the way to go. I love zuchinni, so I am going to try this, thanks for sharing!
Natalie Sater from Florida, USA on April 01, 2013:
This is awesome! My boyfriend and I are in the process of creating a 100 sq. ft. garden, so I'm always looking for new ideas :-)
Cathy from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri on March 31, 2013:
This is a great idea. I wonder if the same method can be used for yellow squash (or crookneck). This would be really convenient to do on your deck. I have nothing but good things to say about organic food. Thanks for sharing your idea.
Emily Nemchick from Phoenix, AZ on March 19, 2013:
This was very useful! I'll be planting my very first courgettes this season and this was the perfect information to start me out.
Brian Dooling from Connecticut on August 06, 2012:
Nice hub! I planted a zucchini plant in a pot for the first time this year and it did great! That is until a heavy downpour and gusty winds knocked it over splitting the stem. So that's one suggestion I would make, protect your container plants, especially since they are mobile! Voted up and useful!
Vanadis (author) from Barcelona on September 06, 2011:
Hi Rosetta, thanks for commenting. That's good to hear. I believe everyone should grow and eat as much organic food as possible. More hubs about more veggies soon :)
Rosetta Ceesay from United Kingdom on September 04, 2011:
Useful. I'm into organic container gardening.
Vanadis (author) from Barcelona on September 03, 2011:
Thank you Movie Master! It was my pleasure and I'm blown away by the great response from people.
Eagle Kiwi- That's great to hear, glad I inspired you. I set out to make gardening more open for beginners with this article, looks like it worked! Thanks for the thumbs up!
Frann- Some excellent advice there. I forgot to mention about not getting the leaves wet, very important! Great tip with the plastic bottle too, I'll have to try it. Thank you for your comment!
Elayne- I'd love to see that! Zucchini recipes seem like a great hub idea too. Thanks for your comment!
Elayne from Rocky Mountains on September 02, 2011:
I am a square-foot gardener, but dabble in container gardening. I will have to try the zucchini - love baking with them. thanks for sharing.
Frann Leach from Edinburgh, Scotland on September 02, 2011:
Courgettes are great in big containers like you show here. One tip I would add is this: The fruit will almost certainly rot if you splash them when you water (strangely, the rain doesn't seem to do this), but the part that wants the water is the root.
If you get a plastic drinks bottle, cut the bottom off, and bury it top down in the pot pointing at the roots, you can water without getting any part of the plant wet, just by pouring the water into this funnel.
Eaglekiwi from -Oceania on September 02, 2011:
Wow ,now I am inspired!
Why even I could grow these delicious vegetables.
Love the pics and step by step easy to understand instructions.
Movie Master from United Kingdom on September 02, 2011:
Congratultions Vanadis on your HubNuggets award and an excellent hub, lots of detailed information and great photos.
Many thanks for sharing
Vanadis (author) from Barcelona on August 31, 2011:
Thanks Shayana! I hope you found it helpful :)
shayana mack on August 31, 2011:
great hub ! Thanks man, this was really amaizing.
Vanadis (author) from Barcelona on August 29, 2011:
Hi ripplemaker, thanks for the kind comment! And yes it is fun..pleasantly surprising! I'm inspired to write more :)
Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on August 29, 2011:
Oooh my friend will be so excited to read this hub and I will be forwarding her this one. :D
Yes, isn't it great fun to be part of the Hubnuggets? Congratulations! And to all those who would like to vote for the Hubnuggets, this way: https://redelf.hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/Bermud...
Vanadis (author) from Barcelona on August 27, 2011:
Hi Flora, wow.. I didn't even realise I'd been nominated! Thanks for letting me know.
And yes, they're one of the few veggies with different names here, eggplant being another. I'm new to gardening..and hubpages.. so I'm just sharing my experiences and small successes as I encounter them :) Thanks for your comment!
FloraBreenRobison on August 26, 2011:
Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination. I never knew zucchini had another name, although being in Canada I am used to being familiar with both American and English terminology. I've never grown zucchini before.
Vanadis (author) from Barcelona on July 20, 2011:
Hi Deborah, thanks for commenting! You should, it's great fun to grow and so easy. I also have some tomatoes on the go. I might make a hub about those next!
Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on July 20, 2011:
I have a container garden; I think I'll have to include zucchini next spring!