Saturday, April 23, 2011

Growing Zucchini in Kihei


Zucchini is the only summer squash I've grown and it's challenging to grow it in Kihei. It's very susceptible to powdery mildew damage and larval infestation. I've found the best time to plant zucchini from seed is in January and February.

Most varieties of zucchini will produce their first male and female flowers in 30 to 45 days. I like to harvest the females as soon as the flower closes. All of the varieties I've grown produced good quality male flowers that were large enough to use for stuffed squash blossoms.

Bianco di Trieste

Striato di Napoli
Growing in a Smart Pot

Zucchini is a large plant - most grow at least 3 ft wide with heights ranging from 1.5 to 3 ft tall. With the exception of Romanesco, all of the varieties I've grown were symmetrical bushes. The Romanesco were tall, semi-vining plants.

In Kihei, zucchini is the pickleworms favorite food - they'll destroy the base of the plant even before the flowers open. In many areas of Maui, summer squash are attacked by melon fruit flies.

Zucchini, unlike other cucurbits, are difficult to protect from moths and fruit flies. In Kihei, melon fruit fly larvae begin to be noticeable in mid-April and are a significant problem through the summer months. Although I've had occasional pickleworm damage throughout the year, they're usually at infestational levels from June through September. For more information, see my posts on Pickleworms and Winter Squash.

If you're planting summer squash in the spring or summer, I recommend covering the entire plant. In Kihei, it may be too hot to use a row cover during the warmer months but tulle or screen might work. Gardeners do come up with innovative ideas. Julie, the author of the Dirty Fingernails 808 blog, wrote a post on building a Zucchini Hale to protect her plants from melon fruit flies.

April 30th Harvest

Another reason to consider planting zucchini in the winter months, rather than the spring, is the heat. As the temps began to climb in April, the newly emerging fruit started to curl.

I've been able to grow zucchini in 15 gallon SmartPots filled with an organic potting soil. Before I direct sow the seeds, I amend the potting soil with green sand and an organic all-purpose fertilizer. Then I add additional fertilizer after 1 month. The plants need daily water and their water needs increase as they grow and as the temps increase.

When stuffed with cheese, zucchini flowers are so ono.
Basil Wraps with Veggies and Spinach Cream
Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Ricotta
Five Ways to Eat Squash Blossoms
Fried Zucchini Blossoms
Sicilian Sun-Dried Zucchini

Zucchini seeds are widely available - Gourmet Seed and Seeds From Italy have large selections of Italian Heirloom seeds.
SmartPots can be ordered online or purchased at Kula Hardware & Nursery.


  1. Lucky you Jane, growing Romanesco. I would love to try growing it one of these days, i hear it is delicious!
    I felt brave this year and planted Delicata squash and asian melon in December. No fruit flies yet (cross my fingers) but the short days and cool nights make for some very slow growing ; (

  2. Last year all of my squash were killed by SVB's. I'm going to plant them later in the season this year to try to avoid them. They didn't get to my cucumbers that where sown toward the end of June. We all have different pest challenges in different growing environments!

  3. Hi Julie! The romanesco seeds I have are surprisingly early. This is the 1st year a romanesco plant survived long enough to produce a result! It looks like February is a good month to plant zucchini in Kihei as I've harvested lots of baby zucchini over the last 4 weeks The melon fruit fly larvae began to show up last week and they'll become out of control here in May. So far they haven't gone for the zucchini but it's just the beginning of their mating season.

    I hope your squash and melons ripen. I'm glad you experimented with a December planting date. I didn't have room to plant until the end of January but that date worked out for both melons and zucchini.

    Hi Robin! I haven't had SVBs but the pickleworms bore through the vines too. It takes a few years to figure out the bug cycles or what to do that works to protect the plants or fruit. I hope you have better luck this summer!

  4. I love romanesco types more than the regular zucchini, but I really do hate the way they ramble about. I wish they would be short vines like a regular zucchini. I never know how much room to give them.

  5. Hi Daphne! I grew 5 varieties of Italian zucchini this year and the romanesco was the only one that vined. It kept falling over but it produced very good quality squash and the largest male flowers.

  6. I love and hate summer squashes because of the squash bugs, I'm growing a round romaneseco zuc this year, we'll see what happy.

  7. Hi Mac! Bugs are so challenging - sometimes they make me feel like giving up! Zucchini is so hard to protect from the destructive bugs. So far I haven't found any squash bugs but they would have to fight with the pickleworms for the zucchini!

  8. I love zuchini! Is every summer in our garden.


  9. Hi Carola! Zucchini is so versitle and there are so many great varieties to grow.

  10. Hi Jane,

    I'm currently in Chicago and visit my family in Pukalani twice a year. While I'm there I try to do as much gardening and landscaping as possible. I recently put in some eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and asparagus. We've also had some luck with beets (delicious pickled!), snow peas, kabocha and strawberries. In addition, we also have several fruit trees including kadota figs, grapefruit, tangerine, pomegranate and mullberry.

    Your blog is an inspiration and I visit it frequently.

    Recent developments may necessitate a relocation back to Maui to be closer to my family. I'll look forward to the challenges of year-round gardening in our climate and the chance to install a Japanese garden.

    I'll anxiously await your new posts!

  11. Hi Chicago Transplant! That's wonderful you're able to garden when you visit. Pukalani has a longer growing season than Kihei and most things grow so much better there! Mahalo for your appreciation of my blog!

  12. Aloha! Lahaina gardener here. Fairly new. Having a huge aphid problem and along with it comes the ants. They love my zucchini plant, squash, just about everything. I've done need oil, insecticidal soap, and baits around the yard. Help!!!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Zucchini grows best in Kihei when the seeds are planted from late December through early February. I wasn't able to grow it during the hotter months. The biggest issue I have is the pickleworm which is most active from May through September. They not only destroy the zucchini but the plant itself. Aphids increase during the hotter weather when the green weeds and grasses in the open fields around my neighborhood turn brown or die off then the aphids flock to a nice green garden. I think I've tried most every organic product recommended for aphids and so far nothing has worked! But keeping the plants well watered and well fertilized will help the plants weather through aphid infestation and still produce fruit.

  13. Thank you so much! I've had luck with both butternut squash and zucchini lately. A lot of rinsing the leaves daily, neem oil and steady watering. Staying organic around the garden but using ant baits out in the yard. Hate to do it but it helps a lot!