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How to Grow Zucchini and Summer Squash Organically

Updated on December 29, 2015

Summer Vegetables

Popular zucchini and summer squash at a farmers market
Popular zucchini and summer squash at a farmers market | Source

Garden Vegetables

Organic produce has become a popular commodity at grocery stores. Consumers are becoming more aware of what kinds of pesticides are being used on the fruits and vegetables that our families consume. Fortunately you don’t have to always pay extra to get organic produce at the store, you can grow them yourself, if you are up to the challenge.

Some people aren’t the most competent gardeners and there is nothing wrong with that because we all have our strengths and weaknesses. My family has had a large garden for years now and we always do something wrong, every year. We might plant something too close to another plant or not water correctly, it just happens.

What is so great about growing squashes at home is that they are just about fool proof. They are exceptionally hearty and can take the neglect that we are all guilty of giving to our gardens.

Over the years we have developed some accidental hybrids of squashes. The seeds get mixed into the ground when we work our spent summer plants into the land in the fall and we always have one or two sprout on their own in the spring. Sometimes they are normal squashes and other times they are not. This year we had a hybrid zucchini and crookneck squash. The vegetables looked like crooknecks in size but had a noticeable green hue to them; they even tasted like a combination of the two.

The point is you don’t have to be a professional farmer or expert home gardener to grow zucchini or summer squash; all you need are a couple of basics and some space for them to grow.

Heavy Clay Soil

Heavy clay soil
Heavy clay soil | Source

Types of Soils

Understanding your soil is important when planting a garden. Hard clay soils stay wet and clumpy while sandy soils don’t hold onto your plants as well as they might like. If you have a hard time identifying what kind of soil you have bring a sample to a local nursery and they should be able to help you out.

Knowing your soil is important because not watering or feeding a vegetable plant, based on what kind of soil it is in, can keep the plant from growing to its full potential.

How to Garden Vegetables

Planting and growing squashes is easy. Just about every nursery or home improvement place sells a few varieties of squashes and they are pretty cheap, usually about two dollars a plant. This initial investment will be more than covered because squash plants are very prolific producers. Over the years we have learned a few ways to offload our extra zucchini plants, I’m glad my co-workers haven’t wised up yet.

We have tried to grow squash from seed in our greenhouse and it was an OK experience. I’m not sure we would do it again but at least we know we could do it, if we had to.

One of the biggest things to consider, when growing squash, is the space that you are allocating for the plants. Squash will take up a large amount of space by the time that they reach the end of the season and will choke out other plants that get in their path. We have had one zucchini plant take up a ten foot square area before so plan accordingly.

Growing Squash

Using Compost

One great, easy and cheap way to garden organically is to use compost. The preferred method is to do it yourself but you can purchase compost from the same place you buy your vegetables plants. Obviously making compost yourself guarantees what goes into the compost but the store bought stuff is usually OK as well; just make sure you completely read the bag to see if they add in any extra stuff you might not want.

Organic Gardening

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Garden Fertilizer

Commercial fertilizers have been under increased scrutiny because traces of them are starting to be discovered in places we didn’t intend them to go, like our waterways.

A garden is different than your front lawn but you should still be smart about what kind of fertilizers you put on the ground. With my neighborhood all on wells for our water supply we elect to not use commercial fertilizers anywhere, especially since there are organic variations available for a small price difference.

Any kind of fertilizer that says it is organic or natural is usually OK to use.

Another advantage is that commercial fertilizers are geared towards the plants having a quick response to the feeding; I guess the manufacturers assume that we want to see huge improvements in our plants after applying their product. The negative to this is some plants can become more susceptible to insect attack because of this new, quick growth. Plants growing at their intended rate have a chance to build up their natural defenses and this process doesn’t always happen when they grow too fast.

Lady Bug Picture

A lady bug enjoying an aphid meal
A lady bug enjoying an aphid meal | Source

Organic Pesticides

Pests can be a real pain when you are growing anything, especially something that you are intending to eat. Nobody likes to pick something off of a plant and then make the discovery that some little creature has already helped themselves to a meal.

Luckily there are natural ways to control pests. Many places that sell garden plants will also sell some of the good bugs, like lady bugs, that you can deploy into your garden to fight the bad bugs; if you haven’t seen a little lady bug feasting on aphids it is quite a display of an appetite.

If you don’t live in an area where lady bugs are available the store will have natural options as well, just remember to read the packaging completely to understand what the product has for ingredients. Many will contain derivatives from other plants as the main agent to kill bugs or at a minimum deter them from “bugging” your zucchini and summer squash.

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    • adjkp25 profile image
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      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Marcy - Yep, they do produce a bunch...usually more than we can eat but we find someway to use them or give them to someone who will. Worst case we break the huge ones open and the chickens happily peck away.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I love squash season - they grow so abundantly, and they're so versatile! Although it sure upsets me when the bugs get them (or worms, or whatever). When you have a prolific plant, you can eat from it for weeks!

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      teaches12345 - We always miss one or two zucchini and they get huge so my wife either makes bread out of them or hollows them out and puts stuff in them and bakes them. Both are very good ways to not waste what has grown. Thanks for commenting.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Nettlemere - At first it kind of freaked us out a little bit, it was almost like a science experiment gone wrong but the rest of the family enjoyed them. I'm sure we will have some off the wall creations next spring too.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      everythingdazzles - I'm a little bit more picky then you are I think but zucchini is a favorite of mine.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      summerberrie - I have to be honest, I didn't try them because I don't like crookneck squash but the family described it for me. Thanks for the votes.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      sgbrown - I should probably add that chickens can help keep bugs at bay. We have a dozen hens and they eat just about anything that they can, believe it or not one even ate a small mouse once...scared us to death to eat her eggs for a while. Not everyone can have chickens but they are great bug eaters.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      NMLady - Sorry to hear about those little buggers messing with your veggies. We haven't been affected by these kind of bugs here in California and, based on your description, I'm glad we haven't. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Peggy W - Fortunately we have an acre of land to play with so space doesn't affect us to much but our last house was a little bit space challenged. Thanks for voting and sharing.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      billybuc - We try to stay as organic as possible. It might not be as easy but we certainly feel the extra sweat is worth it in the long run.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I wish I could have a garden to that I could grow squash and zucchini. I have a recipe for zucchini bread that is so wonderful, if I had some right outside my door I could make it more often. Love your advice and detailed information.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I'm intrigued by your hybrid squashes, it must be quite exciting to see what new combinations tasted like.

    • everythingdazzles profile image

      Janelle 5 years ago from Houston

      Any veggie is good in my book!

    • profile image

      summerberrie 5 years ago

      I love squash. It would be interesting to taste one of those accidental hybrids. You have given me a healthy dose of motivations and enough information to grow my own squash. Thanks. Voted up and useful!

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      We have not found anything that will "organically" keep the "squash bugs away. I hate using the chemicals, but do on my squash plants, or NO squash! If anyone can tell me how to kill or keep away the squash bugs organically, I would love it! Great hub, wonderful information. Voted up and more! :)

    • NMLady profile image

      NMLady 5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      The big old hard shell bugs that I had on my squash just laughed in the face of the lady bugs AND diatomaceous earth. So, I lost the WHOLE crop. The diatomaceous earth had NEVER failed me before....it even makes every type of ant go away!!! However, Mexican squash is super cheap where I live....... heck, they practically give it away.

      Nicely written article!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I loved the huge garden we had in Wisconsin and we did it organically with great results. I have a tiny amount of garden space in our Houston yard now and cannot grow zucchini for two reasons. One...the space and two...too much shade. In the small space with enough sunlight that we have, I would rather grow my herbs and a few tomato plants, eggplants, peppers and more upright growing things. Too bad because we love zucchini! And yes...it DOES become prolific giving a bountiful harvest. Sharing this hub + voting up and useful.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Anybody who writes about organic farmer gets my vote....and we use ladybugs each and every year in our organic garden. Good job!