5 Tips for Growing Great Zucchini in Raised Beds

Zucchini is a prolific grower and generous giver. While zucchini loves room to spread, getting a great yield while contained in a raised bed isn’t an issue with the proper preparation. Garden expert Christina Conner shares her top tips for growing great zucchini in raised beds this summer.

Close-up of a raised bed with growing zucchini plants. The zucchini plant is a lush, bushy annual characterized by sturdy, succulent stems branching out from its base, supporting a canopy of large, bright green leaves with prominent veins and slightly fuzzy textures.Amidst the foliage, vibrant yellow flowers bloom, each bearing five distinct petals and a central stamen.


Zucchini, a summer squash, is one of my summertime favorites. Whether grated into batter for bread, grilled on the barbecue, or even raw in a salad; it is freaking delicious. It’s known for being an easy, prolific grower and generous giver of its fruits (botanically speaking, zucchini is a fruit). Zucchini is a must-have for the summer garden, whether grown in the ground or in raised beds. 

Raised bed gardening is great for many reasons, including weed management, precise control over soil and amendments, and many others, all leading to healthy plants and increased production. While most zucchini plants need a lot of space to spread out, with the proper planning, you can still have an excellent yield in a raised bed. 

Prepare your soil

Close-up of a gardener in blue jeans working the soil in a raised bed in the garden. He cultivates the soil using a hoe with a long wooden handle. The soil is loose and dark brown.
Start with nutrient-rich soil for thriving zucchinis in full sun.

My number one rule of successful gardening starts with the soil. To thrive, zucchinis need rich, warm, well-draining soil in full sun. Ideally, the soil has a slightly acidic pH between 5.8 and 6.8. Raised beds are a common way to ensure adequate drainage, as zucchini plants hate wet feet. 

They’re heavy feeders, so your soil needs to be rich. Three to four weeks before planting, a generous dose of aged manure, sieved compost, fish emulsion, or organic all-purpose fertilizer is a great way to crank up the nutrients in your soil. With your soil freshly amended, topdress with mulch to discourage weeds and help the soil maintain moisture. As your plants start flowering, give them another dose of fertilizer or work a generous amount of organic matter around them. 

They don’t like to be cold – their ideal temperature is between 60°F and 85°F (16 and 29°C), though they can tolerate low temperatures down to 40°F (4°C). When planting, the soil needs to be at least 70°F (21°C). If you have a shorter growing season with a late frost date, use a tarp to warm the soil four to six weeks in advance. 

Choose the right zucchini for your space

Close-up of a zucchini plant in a raised bed in a sunny garden. The zucchini plant is a fast-growing, bushy annual with large, lobed leaves that sprawl out from its central stem. It produces elongated, cylindrical fruits with smooth, glossy dark green skin.
Opt for bushing zucchini varieties for raised beds and containers.

Zucchini is a popular plant, with many varieties to choose from! There are two main types: bushing and vining. The more compact, bushing varieties best suit raised beds and containers and provide the greatest yields. 

Some of the best zucchini plants for raised beds are:

  • ‘Emerald Delight’ is a compact bushing variety that crawls only three to four feet wide and reaches maturity in 50 to 55 days. You can’t go wrong with this species; it’s resistant to common diseases plaguing zucchini plants (powdery mildew, zucchini yellow mosaic virus, and watermelon mosaic virus 2). 
  • ‘Round Zucchini’ is an heirloom bushing, compact variety that produces baseball-size round zucchini fruits. It takes only 45 days to mature from seed and is a high yielder. 
  • ‘Eight Ball’ is a round, compact, vining variety that takes a bit longer to mature (about 55 days) and grows on trellises. 
  • ‘Black Forest’ is the traditional zucchini shape and climbs up to 7 feet on trellises. It matures in 51 to 60 days and is great for summertime barbeques or oven roasting. 
  • ‘Sungreen’ is a heavy producer and a bushing variety. While most zucchinis need ample spacing between plants, this variety only needs 18 to 24 inches of space and takes 51 to 60 days to reach maturity.

Squash plants are monoecious, meaning they produce both male and female flowers. This is important to fruit production because the female flowers need to be pollinated to fruit. Most of the time, this isn’t an issue as bees and other pollinators do this part, but if you’ve had problems with pollination in the past, I recommend doing two things:  

  • Plant pollinator plants like anise hyssop, astilbe, bee balm, borage, white alyssum, calendula, clover, phacelia, and sunflowers to attract bees. 
  • If this doesn’t work, hand-pollinate your flowers with a paintbrush or cotton swap by rubbing the pollen from a male flower and transferring it to a female flower.  
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Direct seeding versus transplanting

Close-up of Zucchini seedlings in a pots ready to be transplanted into the soil. A young zucchini plant displays vibrant green stems that are both sturdy and flexible, supporting its rapid growth. Emerging from these stems are large, lobed leaves with a slightly fuzzy texture, arranged alternately along the stem. The leaves are dark green in color, with prominent veins and serrated edges.
For optimal growth, seed zucchini directly in warm soil.

The best way to seed zucchini is to seed them directly in warm soil one to two weeks after the last frost date. Squash plants are completely intolerant of cold weather, so wait until the soil temperature is consistently about 70°F (21°C) before seeding. While vining types need two to three feet of space between them, bushing varieties only need one and a half to two feet of space. 

However, if you live in a colder climate (zone 5 and below), start your seeds indoors about a month before your last frost date for the best growing season. About a week after your last frost date, harden your seedlings to acclimate them to temperature fluctuations. After two or three weeks, when nighttime temperatures drop no lower than 40°F (4°C), plant your seedlings into your raised beds and thin them if needed.

Be very, very careful with their delicate root system when transplanting – they are famously averse to having their roots disturbed. 

Pro tip: For a longer growing season, seed only half of your squash at the start of your season and the other half three weeks later. This will help you have a more consistent growing season without getting overwhelmed by an overabundance of zucchini.

Avoid plant stress 

Close-up of a zucchini plant in a bed with drip irrigation. A young zucchini plant features tender, slender stems with a vibrant green hue, branching out from a central base. Its leaves are large, broad, and heart-shaped, with a slightly fuzzy texture on the surface.
Healthy zucchini thrive with consistent care and proper attention.

Healthy, stress-free plants produce the greatest yields. While zucchini plants are very resilient and easy to grow, they’re not immune to challenges that negatively impact their health. 

Other issues that  stress zucchinis out include:

  • Under and over-watering or inconsistent soil moisture. Zucchini plants are heavy drinkers and need even, consistent moisture, but don’t like wet feet. 
  • Soil temperatures that are below 40°F (4°C). Plant them one or two weeks after the last frost date, using a thermometer for extra precision. 
  • Inadequate sun exposure. They need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.  
  • Aphids, squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and flea beetles – implementing biocontrol measures can help control pests. 
  • Diseases including powdery and downy mildews, crown rot, and cucumber mosaic virus are all common. Prevent these by providing  adequate plant spacing, planting disease-resistant species, and avoiding stem damage.
  • Nutrient deficiencies – keeping the soil fertilized during the growing season is key for these heavy feeders. Calcium deficiency, in particular, can lead to blossom end rot.

Zucchini is especially susceptible to powdery mildew, and the best way to avoid this is by providing ample space between plants for good airflow and watering only the base of the plant – not the leaves. 

If you see your zucchini wilting under afternoon sun –  don’t panic and overwater them. Check the soil first, and if it’s still moist – don’t worry. Zucchinis can be a bit dramatic in the afternoon sun. They’ll perk back up when it cools off. 

Harvest at the right time

Close-up of a gardener in gray-blue gloves harvesting zucchini on a raised wooden bed. A young zucchini plant showcases tender, succulent stems branching out from its base, adorned with large, vibrant green leaves that unfurl in a spiral pattern. It produces elongated, cylindrical fruits with smooth, glossy skin, in shades of dark green.
Harvest zucchini when small for best flavor and yield.

Harvesting zucchini when the fruits are small-to-medium sized helps you, the grower, enjoy tasty, tender zucchini. It also helps the plant continue producing high yields—overripe zucchinis hinder production for the rest of the plant. The best time to harvest zucchini is when the fruits are about four to eight inches long, depending on the species. Try not to pick them when the plants are wet to prevent potential disease. 

If you do find yourself with an overripe zucchini, toss it into the compost bin or use it to bake zucchini bread or zucchini parmesan. That said – it’s best to prevent this from happening in the first place. Zucchinis grow fast and should be checked every other day for ripe fruits. If you’re going on vacation and don’t have anyone to look after your plants, pick off all of the small fruits before leaving

Their gorgeous flowers are also edible – and delicious! Use squash blossoms in quesadillas, add them to pasta with butter, stuff them with fillings, or fry these tender blossoms.  

Final Thoughts

Zucchini and other summer squash are a summertime staple and very easy to grow. Well-draining, rich soil, appropriate plant selection, seeding technique, unstressed plants, and timely harvest all lead to healthy plants. And healthy plants lead to healthy yields. They’re not immune to challenges, but by following these tips, an abundance of zucchini can grow in your raised beds this summer. 

Don’t forget to mark your calendar for August 8, National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day. You’ll need something to do with your ample zucchini harvest!

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