The zucchini, which is part of the family of cucurbits and therefore its botanical name is Cucurbita, can give great satisfaction to anyone who wants to devote to the care of a vegetable garden. It is in fact extremely simple to breed and guarantees, especially the new hybrids, abundant production for a prolonged period. It is a vegetable that can be used in many preparations, from appetizers to the first to the side dishes: we can decide to enhance both the beautiful flower of Cucurbita, and the fruit, cooked or raw, using them in a thousand different ways. If we add that it can be easily kept for the winter months we deduce that it is a practically essential horticultural plant.
Annual plant with flexible creeping or climbing herbaceous stem, delicate.
The sowing must be carried out in March, April and May, laying two three seeds per hole that will be 50x50x50 cm for the winter varieties and 30x30x30 cm for the fresh varieties of consumption. The sixth plant will be of m. 1.50 x 1.50 for the winter variety, while for the summer one the distance of m. 1 x 1. The holes, filled with well-seasoned manure, will host the seeds which will be covered with fifteen to twenty centimeters of soil. You can also sow seeds, using pots with soil on which two or three seeds are placed. The transplant will take place when the plants have three or four leaves and there will be no danger of frost.
The courgette (Cucurbita pepo) belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes melon, cucumber, pumpkins and watermelon. The cucurbita is native to Central America and reached Europe in the early fourteenth century. The varieties we know are however the result of the selection made directly in our country and blend perfectly with our culinary tradition.
It is an annual plant that develops along one or more stiff creeping stems (but which can be tutored). At maturity it produces elongated or round fruits, generally green (from light to dark), or occasionally bright yellow, striated or white. It supplies us with all of the orange flowers: the feminine ones are on the top of the fruit, the male ones, larger, on single stems that depart from the main one.
SUGAR IN BRIEF
|Name, genus, species||Cucurbitaceae, Cucurbita pepo|
|Type of plant||Annual herbaceous, horticultural|
|Height and width at maturity||0.4-1m / 1 m|
|irrigations||Frequent and abundant|
|Ground||Rich, deep, well worked|
|Soil humidity||Always fresh, but well-drained|
|soil pH||Neutral to sub-alkaline|
|Composting||Base with manure, then granular for vegetables|
|Rusticitа||Fragile (maximum 10 ° C)|
|Implant distance||1 meter (in and between rows)|
Fertilization, Climate and Terrain
It will be necessary to distribute four or five quintals of mature manure per hundred square meters. They must be buried at a depth of thirty-five centimeters.
This is an extremely nutritious crop. To better prepare the soil it is good to start already the previous autumn by incorporating at least 10 square meters of mature manure every 10 m2, even very deep. In this way, with the arrival of spring, the components will already be completely mineralized and available for the roots.
At the time of planting we can also distribute a few handfuls inside the holes. Further help can come from a slow release fertilizer, with a high potassium content and a good nitrogen supply.
It needs a warm temperate climate and a little windy terrain exposed to the sun.
This vegetable, to grow and produce at its best, needs a temperate and not windy climate. In our country it develops optimally starting from April (South and in greenhouses) and May (North, in full field) and its cultivation can be successfully maintained even up to October-November, depending on our location geographical.
Keep in mind that its growth stops when the minimum temperatures reach 12 ° C. Too early plants can also be fatal because at around 8 ° C the plant begins to suffer irreversible damage, especially when it comes to young individuals.
We tend to proceed when the thermal conditions do not fall below 12 ° C during the night. Maximum productivity is reached in the daytime range between 24 ° and 30 ° C.
It must be well worked, deep and of medium mixture, well drained to avoid stagnation of water. Due to its high productivity it requires an extremely rich soil both in nutrients and in organic substance. At the same time it must be soft, well worked and fresh, but also with an excellent drainage capacity.
Renewal plant that opens a three-year rotation. Given its voracity, the courgette is certainly a renewal plant, which must be planted first in a plot. Avoid replacing it in the same plot before three years have passed.
Good ones are those with beans, lettuce and onions. Instead, the proximity of potatoes, radishes and cucumbers should be avoided.
Combination: onions, climbing beans and lettuce.
This vegetable requires exposure as sunny and warm as possible
Mulching, typical of open field crops, is carried out with black or straw plastic film, in order to fight weeds, maintain soil moisture and prevent the fruit from coming into contact with the earth. Weeding and hoeing, if mulching is not used, serve to aerate the soil.
The topping of the side shoots can be done when they reach a length of more than fifty centimeters to favor the formation of fruit-bearing hunts.
The maintenance of the zucchini is simple: it is necessary to be assiduous in freeing the plants from the weeds and to perform frequent hoeing, to favor the penetration of the water and the aeration of the ground.
It may also be useful to trim the side shoots when they have reached about 50 cm in length: we will obtain a more compact specimen with a more regular and continuous production.
THE CALENDAR OF ZUCCHINO
|Sow indoors||March April|
|Sowing in the open field||April-August|
|Plant productivity||60-90 days|
|Germination||12 days / 16 ° C|
Harvest: it is performed to climb within two months or more, when the fruits reach commercial size, preferably when the apical fruit is about to open.
Adversity: among the animal pests are fearsome the aphids which cause infestation to the leaves making them wither. Among the cryptogams we recall the powdery mildew or white mal, which affects the green parts and causes whitish spots on the underside of the leaves so they turn yellow and dry.
Variety: many varieties of zucchini. We remember:
Genoese courgette, the Striato d'Italia or of Naples, the Bianco di Trieste, the clear Tondo of Nizza, the dark green Tondo of Piacenza.
Important is the one that will take place after the transplant, while the others will be used to keep the soil moist. Courgettes have extremely important water needs. It is estimated that in average conditions at least 5 cubic meters of water are needed for every 10 square meters of cultivation. The ideal is therefore to devote to irrigation every other day, during the spring and autumn, and every day in the summer months, possibly early in the morning or in the evening, avoiding instead the hottest hours (which could cause a thermal shock to the roots).
One of the most obvious symptoms of water scarcity is the excessive production of male flowers.
To avoid the onset of fungal diseases and excessive evaporation, with consequent waste of resources, it may be a good idea to set up a drip irrigation system before planting.
Seeding or buying seedlings
Courgettes can be sown in seedbeds or directly at home. Those who need only some seedlings can also resort to purchasing from specialized nurseries, choosing varieties that guarantee a long production period and resistance to cryptogams.
This practice makes it possible to have an early harvest as plants that are already partially developed will be planted.
Proceeds between March and April. We choose some jars, possibly totally of peat, of about 8 cm of diameter. Otherwise, let's choose plastic, filling them with a mixture that isn't too draining. Place two seeds in each and cover them with at least 2 cm of agriperlite or soil. Keeping them at a minimum temperature of 15 ° C and with a high humidity the germination should take place in about 12 days. At that point we thin out keeping only the strongest specimen.
We then wait for at least the third true leaf to be emitted (and for the temperatures to be permanently above 10 ° C) to proceed with the final planting in the open field.
This modality is chosen starting from mid-May, mainly to obtain specimens to replace those arrived at the end of production (it is good to do it after 2-3 months to maintain high productivity).
Proceed by postarelle, inserting 2-3 seeds at a depth of about 10 cm, leaving at least 40 cm between one point and another. We frequent, but delicately. Here too the thinning will be carried out, leaving 1 meter between one and the other.
Seedlings obtained from sowing or purchased are planted keeping about 120 cm of distance between the rows and the rows. If we use braces we can leave even 80 cm because we will avoid the plants to grow and take up a lot of soil. If this is our purpose, we already prepare long canes by inserting them at least 50 cm into the ground (and maybe joining them horizontally to ensure more stability).
Mulching and automatic irrigation
Prepare a mulch with plastic sheets and, below, an automatic irrigation system, more than be of considerable help. First of all, water interventions can be deferred and possibly automated, thus freeing us from a not insignificant task.
Furthermore the cloth avoids the growth of weeds, keeps the soil more moist and concentrates the heat. The fruits, in addition to everything, grow in a clean environment and reduce the onset of rot.
The collection is scalar and lasts for at least 2 months. The courgettes that carry a flower that is about to open at the apex are ready for consumption and must be cut at the base with a sharp knife.
It is a good rule, however, to remove even smaller fruits at the beginning of production, to stimulate the plant. We always avoid getting the seeds to form because this would compromise the general vigor. From June to September it is good to check our plot daily and immediately remove the ready fruits. Let us remember that the more we gather, the more we produce. On average, a single plant can supply up to 7 kg of courgettes.
What is commercially called "pumpkin flower" is instead the sterile male flower of the courgette. Large in size, it is great to fry in batter or to fill with a filling. Collect it early in the morning, when open, cutting at the base of the stem and place it in a jar with water. They can also be used in cheerful ornamental bouquets.
The fruits are kept for about a week in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. We can also store them for the winter by simply blanching them and then freezing them in bags. An alternative is preservation in vinegar.
Pests and diseases
The courgette fears mildew, gray mold, snails and some virosis.
The first can be prevented by avoiding wetting the leaves and choosing a warm location, but open and airy.
Snails are dangerous especially in the early stages of development because eating apical leaves can permanently compromise the specimens. In addition, they sometimes eat fruits. We set traps or spread specific products.
Courgette - Cucurbita: Variety
The varieties currently on the market differ in shape (cylindrical, pear-shaped, round, ribbed) and color (light green "romanesco", dark green, yellow, striated) of the fruit.
Light zucchini are generally more compact, darker ones more watery (but more resistant to cold).
Among the most famous we remember: diamant, black beauty, tondo of Nizza, tondo of Florence, Sicilian, tondo of Piacenza, trumpet of Albenga, Gold Rush, black of Milan, Florentine courgette, Genoese courgette, courgette of Voghera, courgette of Asti, Striata d'Italia, Bianca di Trieste, ambassador, president.
Some specific varieties have also been selected for the almost exclusive production of the male flower, in this case much more frequent and of large dimensions.
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