Zucchini is a garden staple and an extremely vigorous grower. Each plant will produce several squash a day during peak season! But that doesn’t mean that they’re trouble-free. In our Zucchini Growing Guide and video, we’ll share tips and tricks to sidestep common squash problems, as well as tips on how to harvest and cure, so you have a successful summer squash season!
Zucchini are a type of squash—more specifically, a type of summer squash. Squash are generally divided into two categories based on when they’re harvested and how they’re used:
Summer squash are warm-season crops harvested in the summer before they reach full maturity. Because they’re harvested early, their skin is edible and they have a relatively short shelf life. Summer squash varieties include zucchini, yellow squash (straightneck squash), and crookneck squash.
- Winter squash are harvested in autumn after or just before they reach full maturity. This leaves their skin inedible, but gives them a longer shelf life (some varieties are capable of keeping through the winter—hence the name “winter squash”). Winter squash varieties include pumpkins, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and acorn squash.
Thanks to their regular bumper crops, you’ll usually only need one or two zucchini plants in your garden, and chances are good that you’ll still end up with more zucchini than you can handle. But that’s OK! See our recipes below for all the different ways you can enjoy (or preserve) zucchini. Plus, zucchini is full of nutrients! You can’t go wrong… unless you forget to harvest and end up with giant zucchini baseball bats. (More on how and when to harvest later.)
Most summer squash now come in bush varieties, which take up less space, whereas winter squash are vining plants that need more space. Bush varieties will need to be thinned in early stages of development to about 8 to 12 inches apart.
Note: All types of summer squash require very similar care, so even though we mainly refer to zucchini on this page, consider it to be applicable to whatever summer squash variety you’re growing!
A Common Ancestor
Would you believe that pumpkins and zucchini come from the same species of plant? That’s right—they’re both cultivated varieties (“cultivars”) of Cucurbita pepo. Despite the great diversity of squash, most commonly-grown cultivars belong to one of three species: Cucurbita pepo, C. moschata, or C. maxima. Over generations and generations, these plants have been cultivated to produce fruit in all kinds of shapes, colors, and flavors.