Growing a large veggie like a zucchini in a small growing space CAN be done when you follow a few simple tips! It’s very important to choose a container that is large enough to accommodate the plant’s extensive root system so that you get the abundant harvest that zucchini is famous for.
My favorite container for growing a large veggie like zucchini is a 20 gallon fabric Smart Pots container. Smart Pots containers work beautifully for a large plant like zucchini because the containers are made from durable, aerated fabric. When the roots hit the sides of the pot, they “air prune”. Instead of encircling the bottom of the pot, and becoming root bound, they prune themselves and form a fibrous root ball that is able to effectively take up water and nutrients, feeding the plant and helping it grow large and be productive, even in a container.
The aerated fabric also provides the zucchini plant plenty of airflow, keeping it cooler on a hot summer day. It also drains water effectively so the plant doesn’t become waterlogged and the roots don’t rot. See my previous blog post, Growing Large Veggies in Containers for more info on growing in containers.
Once you have your zucchini planted and established in the container, follow these tips to help it thrive.
Tip #1: Support your plant
A zucchini grows like a bush, but does tend to have some trailing vines as it grows. Provide it with support, such as a sturdy store bought tomato cage. Place your cage deep in the container at the time of planting and feed the large leaves up through the tomato cage as they grow. This will give your plant stability and help save space. Make sure to check your plant every few days when it is getting established, as it is a fast grower!
Tip #2 – Hand pollinate if necessary
As your zucchini plant grows, you should see flowers bloom. First, the male flowers will bloom, sometimes they will fall off, or shrivel up. Don’t be alarmed, this is normal! Soon you will see the female flowers bloom – they are attached to tiny immature zucchini. If the fruit does not continue to grow, this is a clue that you do not have enough pollinators around your garden and need to hand pollinate the flowers. Don’t let hand pollinating scare you – it’s so easy! See my previous blog post on “Growing Watermelon in a Container” so you know exactly what to do! The hand pollinating process is the same for zucchini and watermelon.
Tip #3 – Water and Fertilizer
Container plants dry out quicker than in-ground plants. Check your container zucchini daily to see if they need water. I have my container plants on a separate drip irrigation system from the rest of my garden, due to the different watering needs they have. If you do not have a drip irrigation system, check your containers daily by sticking your finger into the soil. If the soil feels dry, you need to water. In high temperatures (over 90 degrees) you may need to water your plants twice a day. Water with your hose or watering can at the base of your plant (avoid getting the leaves wet) until water runs out the bottom of your container.
Zucchini is a heavy feeder and a power producer. It needs a lot of nutrients produce over a long growing season. Fertilize your container zucchini once a week with a liquid water soluble fertilizer. A water soluble fertilizer will provide nutrients that will be immediately available to the plant. My go to liquid fertilizer is Verimisterra worm tea, made from worm castings. Worm tea contains beneficial bacteria and microbes and feeds your plants just what they need to grow healthy and strong in a container. (Available at the above link for a 10% discount with the promo code “calikim”.)
Common Zucchini Problems
Blossom End Rot (BER)
Blossom end rot or BER, is a condition that often affects zucchini plants. A zucchini has BER when the end of the veggie is soft and looks like it is rotting. Remove any zucchini affected by BER from the plant. Affected fruit are edible as long as you cut off the soft portion. BER is caused by a lack of calcium in the soil, or by the inability of the plant to take up calcium from the soil due to irregular watering.
Help prevent BER on future zucchini by sticking to a regular watering schedule, or by adding calcium to the soil. Add calcium to your soil one of 3 ways:
- crush 2-3 Tums tablets, sprinkle around the base of your plants, water.
- crush eggshells in your blender or coffee grinder, sprinkle 1/4 – 1/2 cup around the base of your plants, water.
- add gypsum – availble at most garden centers – follow directions on package.
Powdery Mildew (PM)
Powdery mildew (PM) is a fungal infection that is common to zucchini plants. It looks like baby powder coating the tops and undersides of leaves. PM thrives in humid, rainy weather when the leaves don’t have a chance to dry. It can also occur in dry conditions, as I usually get it toward the end of every growing season, in spite of our warm California summers.
Avoid overhead watering
Watering at the base of your plants is healthier for your plants and helps avoid diseases like PM Use a drip irrigation system, or water with your hose at the base of the plants.
Prune affected leaves
Pruning leaves affected by disease not only keeps PM from spreading but also keeps your zucchini plant under control in a small space. This prevents the plant from shading itself, or smaller plants and re-directs the energy into growing lots of squash!
Spraying the leaves (foliar spray) with an organic fungicide is helpful to prevent PM. Spray the tops and undersides of leaves before you see PM, as a preventative measure. Spray early in the morning so the leaves can dry before evening.
My favorite foliar spray is Vermisterra Worm Tea. It coats the leaves of your plants with beneficial microbes and bacteria that will multiply and crowd out diseases and protect it from pests. (Available at the above link for a 10% discount with the promo code “calikim”.)
Watch the video from my YouTube channel, “Growing Zucchini in Containers & Controlling Blossom End Rot and Powdery Mildew” so you can see exactly what to do to be successful at growing zucchini in your container garden and keep blossom end rot and powdery mildew under control!
Comment below – let me know if you are growing zucchini in containers in your garden!
Harvest your zucchini while they are young for nice tender veggies. I love zucchini grilled, stuffed or oven roasted.
If you wait to long to harvest, beware, you might end up with a baseball bat, which are delicious shredded up for zucchini muffins, bread or cakes. Any way you slice it, garden fresh zucchini is bound to be delicious and will be a family and neighborhood favorite – you’ll have plenty of it to share with anyone who stops by!
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