Square Foot Gardening Zucchini

If you’re a beginning gardener or gardening in a small space, square-foot gardening may be right up your alley.

Zucchini is probably the easiest summer vegetable to grow, so let’s talk about how that fits in and what you can do to improve your yields.

Basics of Square Foot Gardening

Square foot gardening at its most basic is a raised garden bed, divided evenly into squares. Each plant resides in its space, with the intention being for it to be intensely productive.

You can make your square bed deeper, by raising the sides.

This practice is ideal for crowded cities where there isn’t much outside space, such as Boston, MA.

With your garden, you would typically have a 4×4 space and separate each square foot with a divider. A few ideas for a divider include a wooden lattice or a grid made from PVC piping.

Within each foot is a plant or plants. Some vegetables and fruits do well grouped, so you may be able to fit more than one plant in a square. Herbs do well in the square-foot garden.

Radishes or carrots, for example, can be grouped tightly. Zucchini or squash, on the other hand, are not so easily confined.

The plant prefers to sprawl, but there are tricks and workarounds to make this a bountiful crop in your small garden.

Also Read: Beets Square-Foot Gardening [All about Beets]

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Basics of Zucchini

Everyone knows zucchini as the overabundant vegetable of the summer. With enough water and sunshine, it’s practically impossible to fail at growing this garden staple.

The zucchini plant has huge leaves and a thick stem that sprawls across the ground, giving it a distinctive look.

The zucchini plant is appealing because it doesn’t require complicated soil amendments. You can fertilize it in the most basic way during the planting process, and it should be good to go.

In this way, it’s an ideal plant for the simple mix used in square-foot gardens.

Zucchini do their best during hot days when the temperatures are high. So, if you’re in California, you won’t have any issues growing this vegetable. These plants are big drinkers. However, if they receive enough water, they should produce fruit until the temperatures drop.

Zucchini Disease and Pests

There are two primary banes of zucchini. But there are tips to help prevent both.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungal infection that’s common in zucchini. Carried by the wind, spores will land on leave and stems, spreading over the plant.

Because they can reduce flowering, this can dramatically reduce the production of your plants.

You can prevent the spread of the mildew by promptly pruning any leaves you see the fungus appear, increasing airflow.

Vine Borers

Squash vine borers are capable of causing massive destruction to crops. For hobbyist gardeners, they can ruin your season.

There is one generation of these insects born a year. During the summer, they emerge from the ground and lay their eggs at the base of zucchini, squash, and other susceptible plants.

When the eggs hatch, they burrow into the stems.

If you notice your zucchini plant wilting, you should check the base. The telltale sign of squash borers is orange sawdust-like leavings from when they chew their way into the plant.

There may be more than one larvae in your plant.

You can take a knife and cut into the stem until you remove the larvae. But at this late stage, it may be too late to save the plants.

Check out: Square Foot Gardening Parsley [How & Where to Grow]


You can prevent vine borers with the following methods:

  • Plant your zucchini after vine borers have emerged and laid eggs; in early July.
  • Utilize floating row covers after adult vine borers emerge, preventing them from laying eggs near your plants.
  • Practice crop rotation preventing vine borers from re-infesting.

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Zucchini and the One Square Foot

Typically, the recommendation is you grow one zucchini plant in a two square feet area. However, you can plant zucchini in a single square-foot grid, meaning you can increase your yield.

Growing Zucchini Vertically

You probably don’t think of zucchini as a plant that can be grown vertically. Instead, your memories of zucchini are of the plant sprawling across your garden. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

All you need is a stake, some twine, and patience.

Before planting, you’ll want to drive a stake into the ground. Anywhere from 5 to 6 feet in length is appropriate, with about a foot below the surface of the garden.

If you do this ahead of time, the stake won’t damage the plant’s roots later.

You’ll want to plant your zucchini seed or young zucchini right next to the stake for an easier time managing it later.

It can be hard to tell among the chaotic mass of a zucchini plant’s leaves, but there’s only one stem. It’s this stem that you’re going to tie to the stake.

When you tighten the twine, leave it loose enough; so the plant’s growth isn’t restricted.

Then as your zucchini grows, trim the leaves at the bottom. There are a few reasons for this.

One, you want the plant to focus its energy on new growth, producing blooms, and growing fruit. It can’t do that if it’s attempting to support leaves closer to the ground.

Those leaves don’t benefit the zucchini plant at all. Blocked from the sun, they won’t help the process of photosynthesis. They also block airflow.

Restriction of airflow contributes to powdery mildew, which can damage your plants.

Blooms that grow closer to the top of the plant make them more accessible to pollinators. Because the zucchini plant depends on pollinators to fertilize flowers, you can increase the number of zucchini your plant grows.

Have a look: Square Foot Gardening Garlic [Methods To Grow]

Proper Fertilization

If you’re a seasoned gardener, you probably have ideas about fertilizing your square-foot garden. But for newcomers to the hobby, we have a few suggestions so you can get the most out of your zucchini plants.

Mel’s Mix

Mel’s Mix, created by the people behind the square-foot gardening movement, is one way that you can get your garden started. In essence:

  • 1/3rd Course Grade Vermiculite
  • 1/3rd Sphagnum Peat Moss
  • 1/3rd Blended Organic Compost

Extra Fertilizers

The Mel’s Mix recommends using five kinds of organic compost. Compost is a fantastic fertilizer for your plants. But zucchini is considered a “heavy feeder,” meaning that it will require more nitrogen for you to see the best growth.

A mix of soil and compost (animal manure is a good source of nutrients) is an excellent start. 10-10-10 fertilizer is a nice balanced product that suits the nutritional needs of zucchini plants.


Zucchini is a quick grower when well-fertilized. But it also requires plenty of water for you to see the best crop. An inch of water a week will suffice when the weather is cooler.

And as temperatures rise, you can add that amount up to two or three times.

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Companion Plants

In nature, a single plant doesn’t grow alone. Instead, it’s but one piece of a much larger ecosystem. Each of these different parts fits together, creating balance, and benefit to all.

It should come as no surprise that a similar system would benefit the square-foot garden too. Companion planting can deter harmful insects, suppress weeds, attract beneficial insects, and increase overall soil health. Here are some companion plants that you can grow with your zucchini.

Check out: Square Foot Gardening Peppers [How to Plant & Maintain]

Soil Adjustment

Pest Repellant

Adversarial Plants

Where companion planting is the intentional choice to include plants that will benefit your zucchini, adversarial plants are the opposite. These plants will be detrimental to include directly next to your zucchini.

All three of these plants require a lot of nutrients or will otherwise compete for root space with your zucchini. You can keep them in the same garden, but they should be at least two to three rows away.

Frequently Asked Zucchini Questions

When will my zucchini produce fruit?

Your zucchini flowers should start to produce fruit after 45 days; if they’re not producing fruit, you may want to check a few different things.
If the plant is flowering, but those flowers are then falling off, it could be a pollination issue. If the plant is producing fruit, but that fruit then withers, it could be nitrogen or some other nutritional issue.

Why is my zucchini discolored?

If the ends of your zucchini fruit are turning yellow, this is an indication of blossom-end rot. It’s a condition caused by a lack of calcium.
You don’t need to add anything to the soil to fix this. Instead, just try to evenly water your plant throughout the week to prevent excessive nitrate intake.

Is this flower a male or female?

Easy! To tell if your blossom is a male or a female, check the base where the stem attaches to the flower. If there’s a slight swelling, this is a female. That bulb-like part will grow into a fruit after fertilization.
No swelling at the base? You’ve got a male flower on your hands.

How do I hand pollinate?

Sometimes you’ll run into a situation where your zucchini plant isn’t producing fruit because the plant isn’t well-pollinated. Usually, this is because there’s a lack of pollinators in your area.
There are several ways that you can hand-pollinate the blooms:
1. Remove the petals from the male blossom until the stamen is exposed. Take a paintbrush or Q-tip and gently brush away some of the pollen. Transfer this pollen to the center of the female blossom.
2. Remove a male blossom and press it to the female, petal to petal and gently shake to transfer the pollen.

What to do about general pests?

We’ve covered the dreaded vine borer in detail already. But what about other pests that might trouble your zucchini? If companion planting hasn’t driven away harmful insects, neem oil can work wonders.
You mix the oil with water and spray it on troublesome pests. It’s organic and breaks down quickly, making it safe for other animals. It also has some effectiveness against ailments like powdery mildew.

Read: Square Foot Gardening Brussels Sprouts [All in Detail]

Disadvantages of Square Foot Gardening

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering what some concrete disadvantages are to this system. We’ve outlined a few of those for you.


There’s no doubt about it. The square-foot gardening method costs money to start up. Lumber isn’t inexpensive, and you’ll need to replace it every 5 to 10 years.  The soil mix you’ll need to make to fix it will also cost you money.

Small Beds

The squares are small. There are tricks you can utilize for plants like zucchini, but at the end of the day, if the beds are small, the plants will be cramped.

Shallow Soil

Most square-foot garden beds are only about six inches deep. This isn’t an ideal amount of soil for most vegetables that thrive on growing long roots.

You can amend this somewhat by not putting down a liner that prevents them from growing further into the ground.

Another alternative is to make your box taller, but your cost will increase.

Vigilant Weeding

The plants in your garden are planted densely, meaning you’ll need to get those weeds out earlier than later. Otherwise, after roots are established, it’s a pain to pull them out.

Dried Beds

Because the traditional Mel’s Mix is a more easily draining composition, the beds tend to dry out.  Zucchini have broad leaves that protect the soil from the sun, but you’ll need to be diligent about watering.

Square Foot Gardening Zucchini
Square Foot Gardening Zucchini

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Bringing It Together

Of all the vegetables that a new gardener could begin to grow, among the easiest of them is the zucchini plant. It’s a bountiful plant that produces fruit easily throughout the season.

It’s not one typically suggested for the square-foot gardening method because of its heavy feeding needs and tendency to sprawl. But with the tips we talked about, you can make zucchini work for your garden.

All it takes is a stake, some twine, dedication to pruning, and a little observation. By the end of the summer, you should have more zucchini than you know what to do with.