Patience is a virtue

Zucchini heartThree days ago, we had negligible zucchini action. Last night, when I went out to see if any were ready to go to use in dinner, I found a couple of good-sized ones still bearing their blossoms. Steve had gone out and looked earlier, but hadn’t picked those on the grounds that, with the blossoms still on, they weren’t quite ready to go.

I stood there, peering into the plant, certain that there had to be one whose blossom was wilting. Sure enough, when I pulled aside one of the giant zucchini leaves, there it was. A perfect, small, baby zucchini, with a blossom so rotted that dozens of tiny bugs swirled around it in a happy cloud.

I snipped it off, smearing rotten flower all over my hand in the process. Trust me…if I’m enough of a girl to squirm upon touching an earthworm, I’m enough of a girl to greatly dislike the feeling of rotten blossom on my fingers.

I wiped the blossom off on the grass and headed across the yard, where I evaluated that exactly two grape tomatoes were ripe and ready for picking.

It seemed like it should have been more of a momentous occasion. Actual red tomatoes. On the vine. On a transplanted plant. But I calmly picked them both and headed inside.

I offered one to Steve before dinner, which was to be tacos (with baby zucchini mixed into the taco meat, now that we had a mini-harvest – FYI to zucchini wielders: this is a delicious way to put them to use). “No, we have to wait,” he said. “We can each have one grape tomato on our tacos.”

Ah, the luxury.

I ended up decorating our plates with them, like little scarlet garnishes, and we each ate them early in the meal. Steve cleansed his palate before diving into his.

They were good. Very good. Perhaps not as exciting as the cucumber was the day before. But still excellent. In this case, though, I think these deserve a little more time to ripen on the vine before we pick them. With the tomatoes, patience will definitely be a virtue.


44 Responses to “Patience is a virtue”

  1. 1 ~~Melissa July 13, 2006 at 7:40 am

    Reading this just makes me love this time of year even more (that’s northern hemisphere talk, I suppose). It’s wonderful finding those veggies and seeing how suddenly they seem to form.

    Sidenote: I read “I stood there, peering into the plant…” as ‘peeing into the plant…’ and had quite a laugh, I must say.

  2. 2 Renee July 13, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    I have been looking for a while to find someone else new to this. I want to cut back the leaves on my zucchini plant and didn’t know if it would hurt the plant. My husband and I being new to gardening, planted the zucchini entirely too close to our tomato plants and it is over taking the garden.

  3. 3 inadvertentgardener July 14, 2006 at 1:08 am

    Melissa, that’s pretty funny. We only let foxes pee on our plants. Tee hee…

    Renee, I’m so glad we could help! I would say that cutting back the plant has probably affected production on that side — if I had it to do over, I’d suggest that we not cut that far back — but if it’s shading your tomatoes, I’d say go for it. From what I’ve seen so far, it looks like zuke plants are pretty tough!

  4. 4 Judith July 14, 2006 at 3:11 pm

    About those zucchini blossoms. I just learned something that should have been obvious to me: there are some blossoms with fruit behind them, and some just on a stem. The ones just on a stem should be cut, and the plant will produce more fruit.

    The bonus: the cut blossoms can be sauteed in a little butter and not only taste delicious, but add to the visual presentation of whatever’s mainly on the plate with it.

  5. 5 inadvertentgardener July 15, 2006 at 12:14 am

    Judith — if you cut the blossoms just on a stem, won’t it be harder for the plants to pollinate themselves?

    I did know about the sauteeing of the blossoms, though — that’s a good idea.

    :-) Genie

  6. 6 Judith July 17, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    Hmm. Well, that is a good point about self-pollination. I got the stem-blossom cutting advice (to produce even more fruit – not less!)from someone who is normally a good authority. And there are still the blossoms that have fruit, but then is it a male blossom and female blossom situation?

    If I had my usual excess of zucchini plants to do some experimenting, I’d keep cutting the stem-only blossoms on a few plants. But for now, I think I’ll do some research before cutting any more.

    Thanks! you might just have saved my zucchini crop for the year.
    – Judith

  7. 7 Terry July 17, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    New to growing zucchini. Why does the young zucchini rot at end of vegetable. Is it too much water?

  8. 8 inadvertentgardener July 18, 2006 at 12:12 am

    Judith, I’ve still got both male and female blossoms hanging on, even at this point in the season. I think I’d do more research, if I were in your position. I hope that helps — I’m probably not knowledgeable enough to be an official source, but hopefully it’ll get you in the right direction.

    Terry, I have noticed that the flowers rot at the end of my zukes all the time. Is that what you’re seeing? Brown goo at the ends? And then, when the flowers (or goo that’s left of the flowers) fall off, a soft spot at the end? That seems to be completely normal. If the actual fruit seems to be rotting, that’s another problem…not sure what that might be caused by.

  9. 9 orval July 24, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    Your article describes “giant zucchini leaves” which I certainly have. My question is, Will the zucchini fruit grow better if I cut off some or all of those huge leaves?

  10. 10 inadvertentgardener July 24, 2006 at 11:44 pm

    Orval, that’s a good question. We cut off some leaves, but we did it from mostly one side of the plant. As the plant has continued to explode on itself, that’s meant it’s pretty much leaning to one side, which is a little problematic. I’m having a hard time propping it up, and may have to do some improvisational propping this coming weekend. We’ll see how it goes.

    We have a very bushy zucchini plant, though, rather than a viney plant — there are different varieties. However, if you have the head-sized leaves, you probably have the bushy type, as well. Or maybe I’m wrong. I might be the wrong person to ask!

  11. 11 orval August 2, 2006 at 10:19 am

    I was away for 6 days & found that my zucchini fruit grow better if I leave the leaves on. Apparently they like the shade the leaves give them. I like huge zucchini for making soup. My favourite is zucchini & orange squash soup with some milk added. Make a big pot & freeze individual portions.

  12. 12 orval August 2, 2006 at 10:21 am

    Does anyone know if you can freeze zucchini?

  13. 13 inadvertentgardener August 2, 2006 at 6:25 pm

    Orval, it’s an interesting theory. I’d like to research that a little further, especially now that my zucchini plant has kind of taken a header for the season.

    I’ve never frozen zucchini myself, but Steven over at Dirt Sun Rain mentioned something recently about having plenty of zucchini in the freezer, I think. You ought to check with him and see.

  14. 14 Lori Buhler August 4, 2006 at 9:20 am

    I freeze our zucchini every year. I shred it up and measure it out and put it in freezer bags. It gets watery when you thaw it, but it makes wonderful zucchini bread!

  15. 15 inadvertentgardener August 4, 2006 at 7:38 pm

    Lori, great info — thanks for sharing that!

  16. 16 Priya May 15, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    I have zucchinnis for first time in Houston and they rot at their ends as the flowers rot. Any advise?
    Can I pluck flowers at the ends to pevent zukes from rotting too?
    Will it affecvt zukes growth?

  17. 17 inadvertentgardener May 18, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Priya, that would happen to me last year, too, as the zucchinis ripened — I just usually picked them as the flower began to die off. It meant smaller zucchini, of course, but tastier ones, too.

  18. 18 Paul May 23, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    I, too, am having problems with the young squash beoming yellow and soft on the ends. I let one grow and the entire squash rotted. Any ideas?

  19. 19 Pam June 5, 2007 at 8:26 am

    Check out this website for the reason behind zucchini problems.

  20. 20 inadvertentgardener June 5, 2007 at 8:39 am

    Paul, I hope Pam’s link will help you out — it’s good info.

    Pam, thanks for providing the link!

  21. 21 Manon June 10, 2007 at 3:13 am

    Delighted to have found this website after much searching regarding courgette end rot! Thank you Pam for link – very interesting. It is so disappointing to constantly find your fruit rotting away… I would be interested to know if most of you have found it better to water a little regularly or heavier watering less frequently. Live in hot climate btw. Ta :)

    • 22 Deanna June 11, 2010 at 7:04 pm

      From what i’ve researched it’s better to water heavily less often. Watered for longer periods of time and less frequently to help develop deeper root growth. Watering past the saturation point doesn’t accomplish any purpose, the soil will only accept so much. HTH

  22. 23 inadvertentgardener June 10, 2007 at 7:57 am

    Manon, I am not sure whether it will help with blossom end rot or not, but my approach has been to water less, but water regularly rather than heavy watering less frequently. But we get a fair amount of thunderstorms here in the summer that dump a good amount of rain, so I always kind of fear overwatering.

  23. 24 christine July 1, 2007 at 10:32 pm

    so my zucchini is ENORMOUS, not the veggie, but the plant – leaves large and taking over the whole little garden area of tomatoes and peppers and (hopeful, still) cukes … was watching to see if I could cut the leaves back …

  24. 25 inadvertentgardener July 2, 2007 at 6:49 am

    Christine, I cut some leaves back last year and then kind of regret it — it opens the plant up to injury or disease.

  25. 26 Wayne July 19, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    I remember something about the fruit needing the shade of the leaves. and yes, the smaller the tastier…. but most people I sell to at my school (I play horticulture with my students) think bigger is better.

    I just wish my students didn’t get the revenge of the thorny leaves.


  26. 27 David Footman July 19, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    My zuchinnis are rotting @ the ends this year. I just read that the many causes of this are overwatering, underwatering, and calcium defeciency.. :(( I just cut 3X 3 inch small zucchinis from the plant and they were all rotting at the end, and throughout the fruit.

  27. 28 Gourdgeous01 July 22, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Ugh, They were doing so well!! :(

    I had a fine patch of zucchini growing. Big, robust leaves. Beautiful round of male flowers came out first. Then, tragedy struck… It seems groundhogs don’t mind getting a little of an early start on the harvest.

    One afternoon about 2 weeks ago, I came out to find all of my blooming zucchini plants had been snacked on. The next morning, they’d all been all but devoured. With a few leaves left only part of their former breadth and most chewed down to the stem, I swore vengeance would be mine.

    Sure, I’d seen the vermin around the yard a few times, down in the grass, eating whatever they like in the weedy, hardly manicured lawn. The are kind of cute, you know? Fat little voracious herbivores. I used to… well… kind of… like them. But they turned on me. What could I do?

    The answer was obvious. Relocation! I borrowed a hav-a-hart trap from a neighbor and set out to rid my garden of the brown, furry piggies. But what to use for bait? A light bulb, however dim, lit up above my head. Zucchini leaves!! Of course! Perfect! I trimmed the half eaten leaves and some of the stems and the trap was baited, set and left with the opening facing directly into the little hole in the thicket that was the groundhog family’s front walk.

    Half a day later, success. I had my first little prisoner of war. Loaded into the back of my neighbor’s car, the relocation effort set out for another town, in a field that has a creek nearby. Good bye, good riddance.

    Through the course of the next week, there were 3 more captures. Each one shown to their new home and supposed to be reunited with their family. I was the talk of the neighborhood. “Aren’t you proud of yourself?” my neighbors asked. “That has to be some kind of a record!,” they exalted my trapping prowess. Yes, it was a fine moment in time for me. Until…

    About a week ago, just after the last of the hogs had been removed, I started to notice that the zucchini plants didn’t look so good. They’d continued to put out new leaves, even bloomed for a while, but they were turning yellow. The pride I’d felt only a few days earlier morphed into despair. Would my crop survive the assault? What could I have done differently to save my gorgeous plants? What was going on?

    Well, it’s been about two weeks now. I just pulled that crop out of the ground. There was nothing I could do. After the groundhogs had their feast, I think my tragic decision was in cutting off leaves to bait the trap. I noticed that water had been getting trapped in the halved stems. I’m sure this is where the problem began. Two weeks later, this afternoon, about an hour or so ago, I went out and gave the plants a good look. They were rotting at the base of the plant. Yellow and mushy with all kinds of beetles, insects or whatever little critter burrowing into their crown without regard for the former majesty that those beautiful zucchini plants had displayed. I’m really still not over the disappointment. Quite sad in fact. boo hoo hoo. wah wah wah. sniff. tear.

    Well, There is a little good news. I hope. About a month ago, I’d started a new patch of zucchini plants, in another section of the garden, away from where the first patch had risen and fallen with equal yet opposite emotion. This group is doing even better than the other (sshhh – knock wood) The plants are HUGE and the stems at the ground are dark green. I’m not watering these as much and they seem to like that. They’re putting up buds and will probably bloom in about a week or so. Again, I hope. With only a few months of summer left, I’m not sure if I’ll see any produce from this crop, if they make it that long. What I do feel certain of is that all former resident groundhogs are gone. There’s a bunny rabbit though… He doesn’t seem… oh my… interested… yet.

    Okay, aside from this story of the thrill of zucchiniing and the agony of defeat, I do have a question. There’s been some kind of a mildew about the garden. Mostly on the leaves of the gourds. I’ve heard of “downy mildew” and some other kind of a water mildew. What I came here looking for is a suggestion of how to rid the garden of this strange organism. So, anyone know what I’m talking about? What can I do to get rid of it? I don’t want to lose the second round of plants and I certainly don’t want to lose my pumpkin plants. The mildew is attacking both of these. Anyhow, congratulations to those of you who are eating your zucchinis. I’m green with envy. Wish me luck on pulling a few bottle gourds of my own.

    Thanks for your help. :)

  28. 30 Gourdgeous01 July 22, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    lol – i did a quick search and came up with this web page. I’m going to give this a try…. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  29. 31 inadvertentgardener July 24, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Wayne–Interesting…I never thought about the leaf shade actually helping the veggies…quite fascinating, but that does make sense!

    David–That’s a pretty broad list of reasons for the rotting…hard to narrow it down!

    Gourdgeous–Definitely let us know how it goes — that sounds like a very interesting remedy! And thanks for your story about the interlopers who were eating your plants…using zuke leaves as bait gave me a serious chuckle.

  30. 32 john July 31, 2007 at 10:07 am

    I have a question about Zucchini plants. It seems that right after I harvest them, the leaves all of a sudden turn yellow then shrivel up and turn brown. Before this they’re huge bright green leaves. Is this a case of over/underwatering? My plants never seem to last a whole growing season.

  31. 33 inadvertentgardener August 1, 2007 at 9:03 am

    John, after you harvest all the zucchini? Or just the early zucchini? Does the whole plant die immediately?

  32. 34 Kerry August 7, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    UGH! After 2 days of rain there was all this black tipped white fuzz on the ends of my ready to be picked zucchini. I cut it and the ends were soft and rotting from the inside all the way through. I have 2 left that do not seem to be affected. Does anyone know if this is the same as blossom end rot? I haven’t seen anything anywhere about the fuzzy stuff and it appeared and ruined them in just 2 days. Should I spray a fungicide? Add lime for calcium? Please help of you can, I cannot find fuzz/spore like info anywhere:(

  33. 35 inadvertentgardener August 7, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    Kerry, I don’t know a ton about this, but to my knowledge, blossom end rot is a tomato-only. (Fellow gardeners, feel free to correct me…) But if it was just a massive rain event, I wouldn’t worry too much about it — see how the two that are left do, and see what happens next — you’re liable to be overrun with more zukes than you can eat soon enough!

  34. 37 Gourdgeous01 August 10, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Reporting back about that milk solution. I’ve only applied it once. Just less than a week ago. I think it’s been working. I wasn’t sure at first because the milk left a little bit of a white residue on the plant leaves. But since then it’s rained. Last night to be exact, we got a good rain. When I went back to check the plants today, there seemed to be less of the powdery mildew on the leaves.

    referring to the mold mentioned by another gardener… I recently saw a bit of that too. I had figured it was some byproduct of the milk solution that I had sprayed 4 days prior, but now I’m not sure. The mold that I’m talking about looked hairy with white hairs and black at the base and the tips. I found it growing on one of the fallen flowers of my pumpkin vine. I haven’t seen any since then.

    I’ll be spraying the milk solution again, as the instructions said to do this once a week. With this being said, I should say here that I wish I had tried this solution earlier. The powdery mildew did progress through all of the gourd plants and has taken it’s toll on the foliage and stems of both my zucchini plants and my pumpkin vine.

    If you are interested in the milk solution and did not see the link before, you can find it in one of my previous postings on this page. I do really think it works having given it one round. I’ll have more to report on this remedy for powdery mildew soon.

    There is good news: I’ve harvested about 10 zucchini off of my plants so far. That’s nowhere near as many as I’d thought that I’d have by this point but it’s been fun and quite an interesting study. There are several other little zucchini started on the plants now and I do hope that the damage caused by the powdery mold previously will reverse it’s course and give way to better yields.

    Of note: I’ve had quite a good bit of success with string beans this year. I do enjoy them quite a bit. I like them fresh from the garden and uncooked. Crunch, crunch, crunch. So good. Also, My pumpkin vine has had 2 pumpkins so far. The first one to set has gotten to about the size between a basketball and a volley ball. The second one to set recently aborted and I think the reason for that was that it was on the very next node of the vine after the first pumpkin. I think the first one simply out competed the second for resources. However, on the day that I’d found it fallen to the soil, I did note some of the afore mentioned black and white mold on the rotting pumpkin. I don’t know which came first, the mold or the loss.

    That is all for now. I will write back as weeks progress and the milk solution study goes on.

  35. 38 inadvertentgardener August 10, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    Gourdgeous, that is a terrific report on that solution — thank you so much for posting it! That’s great resource for those interested in giving it a try. And congrats on that string bean success — I, too, love them raw, but that only works when they’re coming literally straight from the garden, I think.

  36. 39 Renee B August 12, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Does anyone know the lifespan of a Zucchini plant? Every year in about late July-early august our plant stems start to rot and I dn’t know if it is because the pland has run it’s course or if there are things attacking it. Much obliged to anyone who can answer this.

  37. 40 inadvertentgardener August 12, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    Renee, take a close look at the inside of those stems — do they look kind of like sawdust? If so, it’s probably squash borers.

  38. 41 cheryl June 11, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    well hello anyone i am very new at this gardening thing. I just wanted to know how do you know when its time to pick a zucchini i have 3 plants and i notice that one of them had a good size zucchini on it, but i didn’t know if it was time to pick it. please help!!

  39. 42 inadvertentgardener June 11, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Cheryl, go ahead and pick! I usually pick them very young — I think they’re more tender that way, and then the plant produces more fruit over the course of the season. I usually wait until they’re about six inches long, then cut them off the plant. Definitely don’t wait too long — your zucchini will turn into a baseball bat!

  40. 44 Jen August 5, 2010 at 6:40 am

    It’s August 5th and for the past week all of my zucchini plants have just started to die. The stems are mushy and where the root is coming out of the ground it’s mushy. Could this be too much water as it has rained here in buckets? So sad.

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