Zucchini is a small summer squash and a member of the melon / gourd family. It has an outer skin that can harden if left on the plant for too long - kinda like a watermelon or pumpkin. The immature fruit are best when picked at about 6 inches in length. Zucchini can be yellow, green or light green. It can be compared to a cucumber is shape, with the Zucchini being a little slimmer then an average cucumber when ready to harvest.
When getting ready to plant the seeds, soak the seeds between two wet towels about about 3 days. The seeds that sprout should be planted, the seeds that have not sprouted can be discarded.
While the seeds are soaking, the ground should be worked and prepared for the seeds. Zucchini requires a balanced fertilizer such as 13-13-13. Try not to use straight nitrogen such as 21-0-0, as you might get a large plant that produces little food. For prolonged production, add some organic fertilizer to the mix, such as mulch or manure. A quick release fertilizer might be good to get the plant growing, but those types of fertilizer will do little for future production.
From the time of the planting of the seed, expect about a week to pass before you see a sprout. During the week keep the ground moist to promote growth.
About 2 weeks after planting, expect to see something like the picture below. There will be 2 big leaves, then a sprout will come from the middle of the stem.
This is a picture of the raised bed a couple of weeks after planting the seeds.
On average, expect the plant to sprout a new center stem every week or so.
With favorable growing conditions, expect the plant to take about 6 - 8 weeks (45 - 60 days) to mature to where it is producing food. Raised beds are not the ideal situation for growing Zucchini. The plants can get around 5 feet across. In raised beds the plants will be crowding each other for sunlight, food and water.
Zucchini plants can grow to be pretty good size, so give them lots of room. Try to plant them about 4 - 6 feet apart. 6 feet apart would be more like an ideal distance.
Unlike some crops, such as corn, peas and beans which will get eaten by deer and raccoons, chances are the Zucchini plants will be left alone. One reason why deer and other animals do not like Zucchini, is because the stems have hairs, kinda like little spines on the stalks. Animals find parts of the Zucchini plant irritating to the skin and will avoid it. What looks like fine hair in the stem in the picture below is really fine bristles.
Underneath the Zucchini plant is a crowded mess. But you will notice 2 types of flowers. One flower is the male and the other flower is the female. These flowers will usually bloom in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. It is at this time that the bees and other insects pollinate the flowers. It might be important to mention that pesticide should not be put on the flowers, as it might kill the very insects that do the pollination.
The Zucchini can be harvested by breaking it off the plant. When using a knife, be careful not to cut off the leaves or damage any other part of the plant.
Zucchini are pretty drought resistant. I have seen fully grown plants survive a month with no rain fall, with day time temps in the mid 90's. Over watering the grown plants may cause the Zucchini to rot on the vine. It is normal for the leaves of the plant to wilt while in direct sunlight. After the sun starts to go down, or when the plant is no longer in direct sunlight, if the leaves return to normal, it has plenty of water. If the leaves are wilted after the sun starts to go down, the plant needs water.