Zucchini is one of the first things many gardeners attempt to grow. It’s nutritious and relatively easy to get started with.
As a sprawling plant, it may take up more space in your garden than you’d like! But vertical gardening may be the answer.
Today, we’re looking at one of the best ways to make sure your zukes don’t overrun your cukes.
Grab your gloves!
The benefits of growing your zucchini or squash vertically
Zucchini and summer squash are one of our favorite things in the garden. They’re usually a high-yield plant that grows all season. All along the vine, flowers bloom, and then the fruits grow, sometimes overnight! The first few crops grow like a bush, but then the plant tends to grow outward.
Before we go any further, let’s bury this one in the dirt. Squash is technically a fruit, not a vegetable. Like tomatoes, they grow on vines and have seeds on the inside.
Originally, zucchini plants were only meant to be used for a few harvests for the highest yield. The plants were then discarded, and the soil would be used for something else. Some of the challenges that growers face throughout the growth cycle can be removed by simply getting things off the ground. Away from the damp earth, they’re free to thrive!
It’s easier to prune your plants
Squash vines put out massive leaves that can shade and kill off competition. Getting them up on a frame keeps them from smothering out your strawberries. It also makes it easier to prune. For the best fruit, you must remove excess leaves to allow the plant to flourish.
When it’s not sending energy to the leaves, it can focus on the zucchini. On the ground, you’ve got to reach through and underneath to find the right place to prune. But you can easily see where to snip when they’re up in the air.
Clip off any leaves growing below the most recent fruiting blossoms.
Improved airflow around your plant
In damp soil, powdery mildew and rot are a serious concern. Especially because squash vines are hollow, if they crack, it’s only a matter of time. Weak points can also invite ants and other pests that ruin your harvest.
Improved air circulation provides ideal conditions for your plant. The vine won’t rot, the fruit’s off the ground, and everything stays nice and dry.
Takes up less garden space
As we mentioned, one of the most significant drawbacks of zukes is that they sprawl. Vines grow as long as six to ten feet in ideal conditions. Unless you’ve got endless room, they’ll choke out the rest of your garden.
Growing vertically gives them a place to go that isn’t out. It’s up! They’ll shoot right up your stake or trellis frame if trained correctly. Use plant ties to secure the vine to your frame and make sure not to damage the fragile stem.
Easier for pollinators to find your plants
Because the vine and leaves are raised up into the air, so are the blossoms. Unlike some other garden favorites, zucchini flowers are gendered. Squash bees and other pollinators must gather pollen from male flowers and transmit that to the female variety.
On the ground, blossoms may hide under the enormous leaves or rot in damp soil. Vertically raised, they’re ready for whomever buzzes by!
Steps for growing your zucchini and squash vertically
Growing zucchini and squash vertically is slightly different than other veggies. Their hollow vine makes trellis training difficult as it’s easy to crack or break. We’ve got a couple of tried and true methods to recommend.
Option 1: Use a stake and twine
You can efficiently train your squash plant vertically using a six-foot garden stake. It’s best to plan ahead and put it in the earth before the plant puts down roots. Drive it a foot and a half into the garden bed for best results.Another great tip and alternative is actually to use a tomato cage!
As soon as the plant is big enough to flop over, begin tying it to the stake. It’ll need your attention every few days as it gets bigger and climbs higher. You should know these vines don’t send tendrils to grip the surface. For best results, tie them off every six to eight inches.
When pruning, only remove the leaves below the first blossom. Once you harvest the fruit, you can prune the leaves below. The plant will continue to grow and produce throughout the season.
Just make sure you don’t use a stake that’s too short; they like to grow and grow!
Option 2: Use a trellis frame
Earlier, we mentioned that these plants don’t grow well on a trellis. Nets and wires aren’t sturdy enough to hold up squash vines. That said, a trellis frame is the perfect support for growing plants.
Build or purchase a frame at least six feet tall, so it’s not hard to harvest. Usually, we like to leave the middle of the trellis open. However, if you’re growing several plants in a wider bed, you can also include a center rail.
Generally, you should grow zucchini around 12 to 24 inches apart. Zucchini plants closer together require more pruning and care. Plants further apart require less maintenance. Gardeners who grow it vertically frequently space it out around a foot apart. If you’re not growing vertically, people often opt for the further spacing of two to three feet.
Then, follow the same procedure as you would with a stake. Tie the vine as it grows up the sides of the trellis.
Other common questions about growing zucchini
Beyond growing vertically, there are other common questions about getting the best out of your plants. We’ve got answers to them here!
Why is it important to prune your zucchini as it grows?
Pruning allows for adequate air circulation and pollination, even when raised. Trim just below the first blossoms for best results. This way, the plant focuses on producing fruit rather than supporting leaves.While pruning, never cut off more than 30% of your plant at one time.
Use sharp garden shears when removing unwanted material. A clean cut ensures that you’re not inviting pests or rot.
When should you harvest your zucchini?
At around 45 to 55 days, you’ll start to see blossoms. Shortly after, they’ll become fruit. Once the flower blossoms dry up or fall off, you can begin harvesting your zucchini. After the first harvest, you’ll want to check back often.
Bigger doesn’t mean better when it comes to summer squash and zukes. Think about the size of zucchinis that you see at your local grocery store. If they grow too big, they lose their crisp texture and become mealy and hard. Your fingernail should be able to press through the skin when you apply pressure.
Which variety of zucchini should you grow?
There are plenty of delicious varieties of zucchini available. Choosing the ones that are best suited to your climate is essential. For climates like Florida, Desert Zucchini is our choice. It can handle the heat and humidity typical in our area. It’s also resistant to powdery mildew, the #1 cause of failed zucchini plants.
Other types that do well in wetter climates are Cocozelle, Black Beauty and Spineless Beauty. Unlike Desert Zucchini, you can save the seeds of these heirloom varieties. Experiment with a few and see what thrives in your garden. You may discover a new flavor!
Gardening tips and seeds with Whitwam Organics
When you’re looking for the best, choose Whitwam Organics. We’re happy to support your organic gardening journey with growing zone-specific varietals. Invite one of our master gardeners out for a site visit! They love teaching you how to get the most out of your plants, no matter how big your plot.
Check out our website for online orders, or schedule a pickup today!