How Far Apart Should You Plant Zucchini?
Are you getting ready to plant zucchini but aren't quite sure how far apart they need to be? Zucchini typically grows best when they have a little space, but how much space is needed? In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen shares the ideal spacing requirements for your garden grown zucchini this season.
Zucchini has a reputation for being an ultra-prolific summer producer. But if you grow zucchini too close together, your crop may suffer. Zucchini plants can grow quite large, and it’s hard to imagine that when you’re looking at a single small seed or young plant. So what is the ideal spacing that you should allow between those little seeds or young plant starts?
Zucchini may be a favorite garden vegetable to give away when gardeners end up with too many, and for good reason. It is fast-growing and can be extremely prolific. A single healthy zucchini plant can produce a steady crop of tasty fruits all summer long!
In this article, we will take a closer look at some different types of zucchini plants and different growing techniques. We will explore why it matters as you plan for how far apart you should grow these great garden veggies.
The Short Answer
The biggest determining factor to help you decide how far apart to plant zucchini plants is how big the plants will ultimately grow. Depending on the variety of zucchini you are growing, you will need anywhere from 1 to 3 feet between plants.
Smaller compact plants will require less growing space than larger vining plants. The growing technique you choose will also affect your plant spacing. A compact plant grown in a container is very different from a large vining variety grown in a garden row.
The Long Answer
Zucchini plants will all grow large and require a lot of space to grow. However, there is a bit of variability here and no single correct answer. When in doubt, if you have store-bought seeds, follow the directions on the seed packet you purchase. Here, we will offer some general guidelines for optimal spacing between zucchini plants.
There may be a minimum distance you should space plants, but there really is no maximum distance required between plants. You can plant them as far apart as you’d like.
Most gardeners, however, are trying to conserve space and are more concerned with packing as many plants as possible into a limited amount of space.
You can, of course, just grow a single zucchini plant, but you will still probably want to leave at least 2 feet of space between it and its neighboring plants.
Varieties of Zucchini
There are large vining plants and small, compact, container-sized zucchini. Logically, larger plants require more space per plant than smaller plants.
Bush Style – The smallest zucchini varieties are fairly compact, for a zucchini plant. There are no truly dwarf varieties of zucchini, they all grow to be rather large. But the smallest plants may stay approximately 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide. For these smaller varieties, you can safely plant them 1.5 to 2 feet apart.
Larger Vines – The larger varieties of zucchini can grow 2 to 3 feet tall with vines 5 or 6 feet long. For these larger plants, allow them 2 to 3 feet between plants.
Even if you are growing them vertically, they should still be at least 1 to 2 feet apart because the leaves also grow rather large and will compete with neighboring plants for light.
There is no single correct way to successfully grow a zucchini. You can grow a compact plant in a large container. Or you can grow a large garden full of sprawling vines. The choice is up to you. Are you growing a single plant for your personal consumption?
Or are you hoping to grow enough for the entire neighborhood? Do you have a limited space or a large area available? Answering questions like this can help you decide how best to grow your plants.
If you have limited space, try container gardening with zucchini. While it’s true that zucchini plants tend to grow rather large, there are several more compact varieties that would perform well in a large container.
Choose a container that’s at least 12 inches deep and 12 inches across. Larger than 12 inches is fine, and perhaps even better, because this will allow your plant access to more soil, more nutrients, more soil moisture, and will provide a sturdier base for your plant as it grows.
If you have multiple containers, you can place them in close proximity or allow a bit of space between them to provide you with access from all sides and allow for excellent air circulation.
If you have a larger garden and want to grow a lot of zucchini, plant them in rows. You can grow any variety of zucchini in rows, including both compact and sprawling plants.
Your rows can be as long as you want, and you can plant as many rows as you want. Distance between rows should be at least 3 feet. You will need enough space for your plants to grow and for you to walk down the rows to attend to your plants.
For more compact plants, allow 1.5 to 2 feet between them, and for larger plants allow 2 to 3 feet between them. Larger plants can grow really big really fast, and they will quickly occupy any available space between plants!
One of the most convenient gardening methods is gardening in raised beds, especially for Zucchini. Raised bed gardens can be especially useful when you have minimal space available or if soil conditions aren’t ideal. A raised bed allows you to more fully control the soil quality and soil moisture.
Raised beds also allow a gardener to customize their gardening plot, allowing easy access to groups of plants, or tailoring conditions in each bed to a particular planting arrangement.
If you want to grow zucchini in raised beds, you will quickly run out of space. If you consider leaving at least 1.5 to 2 feet between plants, you may only be able to plant a few plants per bed.
This may be plenty, though, as each plant is likely to produce many fruits. If you’re concerned about space, an excellent way to maximize your space is to train your plants to grow upwards in a method known as vertical gardening. This will allow you to grow the most plants in your limited space.
If you are looking for a space-saving technique for growing zucchini, try vertical gardening! Zucchini vines grown vertically can be planted closer together than vines allowed to sprawl along the ground. Since you will have greater control over where your plants grow, you can grow them as little as 1 to 1.5 feet apart.
Vertical gardening is a way of encouraging plants to grow upwards, rather than allowing them to sprawl. Some plants are natural climbers, like pole beans and peas, and will readily climb a pole or trellis. Other plants, like vining zucchini, will naturally sprawl along the ground, taking up a lot of valuable garden space.
Since zucchini don’t climb and don’t have clinging vines or tendrils, how do you train them to grow upwards? Don’t use a trellis because zucchini has very large leaves and you will have to fight with their large, brittle, scratchy leaves to get them to grow the way you want them.
Rather than a trellis, train the stems to grow up a sturdy pole. And it really does need to be a sturdy pole, as zucchini plants will become quite heavy and will need a strong, solid support as they grow.
You may have to go out and inspect your plants every day because they will grow fast! Use any type of fastener, such as string, rope, twine, twistable garden wire, or even soft fabric strips.
As the stems grow, loosely tie them to the pole so you have a new tie every several inches. Don’t tie them too tightly; you want your plant to be surely supported, but you don’t want the tie to cut into the stem.
Prune off leaves that are lower on the vine than any fruits or flowers. You will end up with a long vine tied to a pole, with a dense cluster of leaves, flowers, and fruits towards the top. Check on your plants every day or two and add new ties as needed.
You’ll have to check them often anyway because you’ll be sure to want to pick all those fruits before they get too big!
Starting From Seed
You can direct sow zucchini seeds in the spring, after the danger of frost.
Plant your seeds 3 to 4 inches apart. If you are planting multiple rows, row spacing should be at least 2 to 3 feet apart. This allows space for plants to grow and for you to have easy access to your plants.
Once the seedlings have sprouted and are a couple of inches tall, thin out the weakest seedlings. Only keep only the strongest, most robust-looking seedlings. Thin them to 1 plant every 1 to 3 feet, depending on your plant variety and growing technique.
Why should you plant the seeds so close together if you’re going to remove most of them? Primarily because not all the seeds you plant will sprout. Secondly, of the seeds that do sprout, you will be able to hand-select the healthiest to grow to maturity.
The best guidance for plant spacing is to follow the seed planting instructions included on the packet of seeds you buy. Smaller compact varieties will require less space than larger sprawling varieties. Zucchini is very easy to start from seed. But if you prefer, you can also buy young bedding plant starts in the spring from your local garden center.
Starting With Transplants
It may be very tempting to run out to the nearest garden center on the first warm days of early spring and buy yourself a bunch of plants. But hold off on that for a little while longer.
Zucchini is sensitive to frost and a hard frost will kill off any seeding you plant too early. You can protect young plants from a light frost by temporarily covering them with an overturned bucket or large pot, but it’s best to wait until the soil has warmed and the danger of frost has passed.
Zucchini at a Glance
If you want to have plenty of extra fruits to share with your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers, you will certainly want to grow your plants in ideal conditions.
Find a place with plenty of sunlight, plenty of room to grow, and access to regular watering to keep the soil moist. You will also need to be diligent about preventing pests and many common zucchini diseases. Regardless of whether you start your plants from seed or buy young plants, they all require the same basic growing environment.
|Sunlight: Full sun, 6-8 hours per day
|Water: Consistent soil moisture
|Soil: Rich in organic matter, well-drained
|Fertilizer: Organic compost when planting Again when plants start to flower
|Days to Harvest: 46-60, depending on variety
|Spacing: 1 to 3 feet between plants, depending on plant variety and growing style
|Pests & Diseases: Squash bugs Vine borers Cucumber beetles Powdery mildew Bacterial wilt Blossom end rot
|Zucchini Companion Plants: Beans Peas Radishes Parsley Borage Dill
Anyone planning to grow zucchini should be sure to allow enough room for seedlings to grow into large, healthy, productive plants. Depending on your growing style and plant variety, allow at least 1 foot between plants.
If you have plenty of space, plant them at least 2 to 3 feet apart. This allows your plants plenty of room to grow, less competition between plants for sunlight and nutrients, and better air circulation. Greater distance between plants also allows easier access for pollinators and for you to take care of your plants and harvest their abundant fruits.