pattyokieJune 4, 2012

I can't even spell zucchini, much less grow it apparently. I've got (had) great big beautiful leaves and some small zucchini growing at the end of some blossoms, but then the blossoms are fallng off but the fruit is still small. How do I know when it is ready to pick and is it normal for the leaves to be turning yellow?

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Look at the blossoms carefully. There should be both female blossoms (they have tiny miniature fruit located between the blossom and the stem) and male blossoms which do not have the tiny miniature fruit. Usually, tons of male blossoms show up first, and that way there is lots of pollen available to fertilize the female blossoms when they show up later. If you have both male and female flowers, and the small fruit are not enlarging and are instead falling off the plant, it could be either one of two things.

First, there may be a lack of pollinators. You need bees or other pollinators to carry the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. In the absence of pollinators, you can transfer the pollen yourself. You can use a small paintbrush (like the kind that comes in a set of watercolor paints) or a Q-tip. Just dab the brush into the center of the male flower to pick up pollen and then dab the center of the female flower with the pollen. When I have to do this, I do it in the early morning hours. Or, you can pull a male flower off the plant, tear off the petals so the center of the flower remains, and dab the important male part of the flower containing the pollen into the center of the female flower to achieve pollination. Y'all who are reading this, should just quick snickering right now.

The other possibility is a disease called choanephora fruit rot that often attacks immature squash fruit during periods of high moisture/high humidity. If your fruits have this fungal disease, you generally will observe that the fruits are shriveling and decaying, kind of turning a tannish color, and usually you'll see a mold-like growth on the infected area. When this kind of fruit rot sets in, I am not sure how you stop it, other than waiting for drier weather conditions. It is easier to prevent it in the first place than to reverse or halt it. To prevent it in future years, plant on raised beds, or on raised mounds in normal grade level beds, to ensure adequate drainage and space the plants widely for proper air flow. Take great care not to overwater. Unfortunately your plants still will be at the mercy of rainfall, which often comes in only two amounts in Oklahoma---not enough or too much. When too much rain falls at once, that's when the rot is most common. When it happens here, I pull the fruit and throw them into the trash and not on the compost pile.

It is not normal for the leaves to turn yellow. Any time any leaves that normally are green turn yellow, it is primarily a sign of stress but also can be a sign of disease. I always rule out the stressors, which in the case of zucchini would be too much moisture, not enough moisture, or maybe very hot drying winds. Yellowing leaves can be a sympton of downy mildew, which is a fungus. You can control it with regular applications of a fungicide labeled for use on zucchini. Daconil is one that commonly is available. If your foliage isn't a solid yellow but rather is a mottled green and yellow, that could be squash mosaic virus. Normally with mosaic virus, the leaves will have distorted growth and the fruit will display mottled coloring as well. There is no cure for mosaic disease, but controlling insects can prevent its spread. Often if you're seeing downy mildew, you may soon be seeing a powdery growth that resembles talcum powder on your foliage too. That would be powdery mildew and Daconil would control it as well. If you want to use organic fungicides instead of a synthetic one, you could try GreenCure or Serenade.

Zucchini can be picked and used at any size. I like them best when they are smaller, like in the range of 6 to 8 to 10" long. If you leave them too long, they become the size of baseball bats, and it only takes one a couple of days to go from a reasonable picking size to being a huge baseball bat. During the summer, and especially if rainfall is making them grow like mad, I try to harvest zucchini every other day.

Hope this helps,


    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 2:36PM
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I can see the novelty t-shirts now: "Gardeners like to pollinate in the morning." Bwaaaahaaaahhaaa!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 3:43PM
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Thank you so much, Dawn. I am always amazed at how much time you give to help us when you put so much time into your own garden.

I will check my plants more closely tomorrow & see if I can discern either of the problems you mentioned. I hope it is just a case of me having to become a pimp for the plants. :0)


    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 12:10AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Mia and Patty, I really tried to word my response carefully since we were discussing plant s e x. lol

If you make and sell the shirts, Mia, I'll buy one.

You're welcome, Patty. The best way I know to make those zucchinis straighten up is just to go out of town for a week. The plants will miss you and will decide they need to do something impressive to get your attention. When you return from your out-of-town trip, you'll have zucchini four feet long.

I neglected the garden terribly today, only stepping foot in it long enough to harvest enough SunGold tomatoes to fill a few empty inches on a tray going into the dehydrator, and to pick a handful of jalapeno peppers for salsa.

Most of my day was spent in the kitchen, dehydrating and canning tomatoes. I hated that I was stuck inside on a day that did not get insanely hot until mid-afternoon, but you've got to can the produce when it is ready. I dehydrated 3 large cookie sheets of bite-sized tomatoes, and canned 6 pints of tomato sauce (it took about 100 years for it to cook down to the right consistency) and 21 pints of Annie's Salsa. I'm sitting here now listening to the jars from the final batch 'ping'. I thought about sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor, but then decided that no one would be looking at the floor tonight and I could do it tomorrow morning.

Best of all, I whittled down the Saturday tomato harvest from about 10 or 12 large bowls of fruit to only 2 bowls, mostly through all the food preservation, but also by eating a bunch and by giving a bunch away. I love carrying a bountiful harvest into the house, but then there's the inevitable moment when you look at it and realize you need to do something with all of it now because its shelf life fresh is pretty limited. So, today was a food preservation day and tomorrow will be, I hope, a working in the garden day.

I have a long to-do list and never enough hours in a day, but hope I'm never to busy to stop what I'm doing and answer someone's questions, whether here on the forum or just a question from a friend or neighbor. This week, the local question is "How 'bout those grasshoppers? What are you going to do about them?" I have no real answer to that question.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 1:43AM
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Dawn, I think sweeping & mopping the floor should fall under the category: It's going to look like this again in a day or two so why not wait till a rainy day? And, there's no sense mopping on a rainy day 'cause the floor will probably get muddy anyway, so, hold off awhile longer. I can keep that up for several months sometimes.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 12:23AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I did sweep but I didn't mop. Maybe I'll get around to that today, or...maybe I'll put it off until tomorrow since we have a fairly high chance of rain in our Wednesday forecast. Not that I necessarily expect rain, but it would be nice to get some. I postpone housework too much during the gardening season and feel like I'm always playing catch up. For just one day I'd like to be completely caught up on housework and yard and garden work all at the same time, but it just isn't going to happen. Not this year and likely not ever.

I've been busy since the weekend with the tomato harvest, digging potatoes from a smallish subsidiary garden located well away from the main garden, etc. and have barely stepped foot into the big garden this week---just long enough to pick some SunGold tomatoes at the SW corner of the garden and a handful of jalapenos at the NE corner of the garden. For all I know, lions, tigers and bears could be living in there in the zucchini forest because I haven't even looked at those plants since Friday. That leads to the inevitable fact that when I finally harvest zucchini and yellow squash today, some of them will be ridiculously large.

I know this to be true because Tim was mowing and weedeating around the perimeter of the garden fence yesterday and later told me of his garden discoveries. First, he discovered that some catnip had reseeded itself in the pasture east of the big garden. He discovered this when he kept smelling catnip while mowing. I'm not sure the cats will forgive him for cutting down the catnip, but if rain falls soon maybe that mowed catnip will regrow. We've had trouble with bobcats lurking in that specific area in recent years and now I'm wondering if they like catnip.

The catnip was a minor discovery. He also discovered some sort of cucurbit has reseeded into the pasture too, so I'll have to check out that plant today and see if I can tell what it is. I think it is likely a winter squash because that's what I had inside the garden near that fence last year, so it is not out of the realm that I missed harvesting one last summer and it rotted and reseeded. Then we were discussing winter squash and he kept telling me that I have a huge, huge, huge winter squash in the garden. I told him it probably was Waltham butternut because I had planted that one very early in April and none of the other winter squash have even bloomed yet since I didn't plant them until May. So, he tells me it isn't a butternut, that it is gigantic and green and white striped. (He isn't a gardener himself, but he knows what a butternut squash looks like!) I immediately thought of green cushaw, which I did not plant this year, so I don't think that's what it is. So, I'm guessing it is a Costata Romanesco zucchini that has become uncommonly large, and perhaps so large it is unusable other than as chicken feed. That's what happens when you don't harvest regularly and I've had trouble with that the last 2 or 3 weeks. It seems like I'll harvest one thing--sweet corn or green beans or tomatoes and get bogged down in processing the excess part of the harvest that we won't be eating fresh. I need to work harder on harvesting zucchini and summer squash daily before it gets too big.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 5:34AM
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