Summer squash, especially zucchini, are a garden staple and vigorous grower. Each plant will produce several squash a day during peak season! But that doesn’t mean they’re trouble-free. In our Squash 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 squash season!
Chances are that you’ll end up with more zucchini harvest that 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 baseball bats! (More on how to harvest later.)
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.
Most summer squash now come in bush varieties, which take up less space, but 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.
Thanks to their regular bumper crops, you usually only need one or two zucchini plants—and you may still find yourself giving zucchini away to neighbors or baking lots of zucchini bread!
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.