Although growing zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) can be a rewarding, money-saving venture, if you don't correctly water your crop, it can quickly turn into a disappointing experience. Incorrect or insufficient watering can trigger diseases, stress the plants and result in misshapen fruit. Regularly water zucchini to keep the soil moist and never allow it to fully dry, especially during the growing season when the plants flower and develop fruit.
1 Spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost over the soil in your garden, and till it into the top 8 to 12 inches of soil before starting your crops. Compost promotes drainage and helps the soil hold onto water longer so you conserve water. It can slow down water penetration in sandy soils, and make clay and compacted soils easier to penetrate.
2 Determine which watering method you're going to use. Drip irrigation, which slowly delivers moisture directly to the soil around the plants, is ideal, but can be costly. If you have a small garden or live in an area where it rains frequently, manually watering with a garden hose can be sufficient and economical. Avoid using a sprinkler system, because overhead watering of zucchini plants can cause water to splash up from the soil on the foliage, which can result in diseases.
3 Provide zucchini with at least 1 inch of water per week. Adjust your watering frequency during hot dry spells or after rainfall -- you might have to water two to three times per week during summer to maintain even soil moisture. Water the soil around the plant deeply early in the morning so any foliage that gets wet dries by nighttime. Slowly trickle water onto the soil so it doesn't run off and gets absorbed.
4 Stick your index finger in the soil to gauge whether it's time to water. If your finger is dry beyond the first joint, water the soil.
5 Spread a 2-inch layer of organic mulch, such as grass clippings or shredded leaves, around the zucchini plants in spring. The mulch helps combat weeds that compete with your crops for water and nutrients, and it promotes soil-moisture retention.
Items you will need
- Drip irrigation or garden hose
- Grass clippings or shredded leaves
- University of Arizona Cooperative Extension: A Bountiful Garden
- The Old Farmers Almanac: Squash & Zucchini
- Seatle Public Utilities: Improving Your Soil with Compost and Mulch
- Washington State University Extension: Watering Home Gardens and Landscape Plants
- Mississippi State University Extension: Vegetable Gardening in Mississippi: Watering
- University of Mississippi Extension: Growing Zucchini and Summer Squash in Minnesota Home Gardens
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images