This is the first year I have planted zucchini in our garden. Last year I was given some from our neighbors and found so many wonderful uses for it, I knew I had to plant some for myself.
Being part of the squash family I felt fairly confident I’d be able to grow this, as I’d planted pumpkins in the past and enjoyed some success. Plus, everyone told me it was easy to grow and I’d have so much zucchini I wouldn’t know what to do with it.
Really? I wouldn’t know what to do with it? Well, over the winter I began collecting recipes for canning, freezing, and cooking with zucchini. Believe me, whatever the zucchini gods have in store for me, I’m ready.
Anyway, planting the zucchini wasn’t much of a problem. I just hilled up some dirt, put in the seeds, watered, and waited. Fairly quickly the seeds germinated and quickly filled in the area around the tiny a-frame I built for it. It grew and grew and grew and grew. And I just watched. Never did it occur to me that I should be doing something. The leaves were beautiful, full, and spreading like wildfire.
Unfortunately, spreading is something I hadn’t really taken into account when I planted the zucchini. I figured it would climb the trusty A-frame and remain civil toward all the neighboring vegetables. How naive of me. Zucchini is quite a bully when it comes to being confined to a designated space. Actually “bully” is probably the wrong term here. Non-compliant would be more appropriate.
Fairly quickly the zucchini plants spread into the beets, radishes, and carrots. This might have been tolerated but when the zucchini leaves spread into the peppers and began covering several of them completely, I knew I couldn’t allow things to continue. Something had to be done.
I checked several of my gardening books, but none of them talked about pruning squash plants or how to control their spreading. They all however warned to be sure to give them enough space to grow. Oops! Was that there before? I must have skipped over that part.
The internet wasn’t much help either. Most people who pruned their zucchini had much smaller plants and they were through producing their first crops. Pruning I learned would help assure a second crop and continual crops through the summer and fall.
I also learned that most of the pruning was being done on leaves that were covered with fungus or drying up. My leaves were perfect. Aside from one Japanese beetle I found this morning, the leaves couldn’t have been in better shape. My concern was whether or not pruning a perfectly healthy plant would stunt or even stop the zucchini’s growth.
Still…I had to consider the rest of the garden. Left unchecked the zucchini would spread far into the peppers and definitely hinder growth and production. I had to chance it.
With pruning shears in hand I headed into the jungle this morning and began cutting. I cut and cut and cut and cut. Pruning is one of those things that I probably shouldn’t do, because I typically get carried away. You might recall my incident with sun scald last year on my tomatoes because of my over-zealous pruning tendencies (check out my post My Tomatoes Are Sunburned). Learning from my mistakes, however, especially in the garden, is something I have tried to force myself to do.
I first pruned all the largest leaves because I knew that they were the oldest and the outer most leaves. This gave me some room to work in as well as thinned things out considerably. Then I pruned away any leaves that were starting to turn yellow because they’d been buried under the over abundance of foliage.
Snip, snip, snip.
Cut, cut, cut.
Prune, prune, prune.
Stop, stop, stop.
Okay, an entire garbage can full of leaves later I could actually see some zucchini!
In fact, I was able to pick 6 right away and counted more than 15 babies that will probably be ready in a few days.
Much better! You can actually see the tiny A-frame now.
Now the garden isn’t being over taken by the zucchini, my pepper plants are free to grow and bask in the sun, the beets have gained their ground back, and I have zucchini in hand to eat and play with. Could it get any better? Not for this gardener, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.