'Astia' Container Zucchini
I container garden on my urban rooftop so I'm always looking for smaller varieties of our favourite edibles. This year, I grew Renee's Garden's 'Astia' variety of zucchini and I can't recommend it enough! Even if you're growing more traditionally on terra firma, the compact growth won't overtake your garden which leaves you with more planting space.
From Renee's website:
"Astia is a well-bred French bush zucchini variety, developed especially for container growing and planting in small space gardens. These non rambling, compact squash vines are also highly ornamental with big silvery-green, deeply indented leaves. Early bearing and productive, Astia bears abundant zucchini near the base of the plant where they are easy to harvest..."
"Sow seeds 4” from container edges. When 3 to 4” tall, remove all but the strongest seedling. Final spacing should be one plant per pot at least 15” in diameter and 12” deep, or 2 plants for pots 20” across and 12-15” deep. For larger planters, final spacing should be 8 to 10” apart..."
You can purchase seeds directly from their website, or at your local nursery (where I bought mine).
Growing from seed
❶ Direct Sowing
I direct sowed my seeds into a large 15"d x 11"h container using premium Pro-mix potting mix in spring after last frost. May 29th: every single seed sprouted! Just about the easiest experience I'd had with germination.
❷ Thinning & Transplanting
I thinned to the strongest seedling, leaving one plant in the pot. Although squash are known to not transplant well, I managed to transplant the furthest seedling to its own pot, which I gifted to a friend.
❸ Let 'er Grow
In a container especially, these plants are thirsty! During the hot heat of the summer, I watered daily. For sun, it gets unobstructed south-facing light exposure with atleast 10 hours of direct light.
June 28th: after a stint of rainy days, 'Astia' was fruiting and was almost ready. These fruit engorge at a delightfully quick rate which makes them incredibly fun to check up on every morning.
Next day: Harvesting
June 29th: they say these are best harvested at 5" as they're delicious when small and tender. Frequent harvesting encourages more fruit production so I try to pluck them when they're the minimum size.
Female and Male Flowers
Did you know squash have male and female flowers on the same plant? Pollinators will take pollen from the male (left flower: with skinny stem) and insert it into the female (right flower - with swollen ovary). The "mini fruit"-looking ovaries will swell and that is your zucchini.
You can do this manually if you're scarce on pollinators by plucking a male flower, exposing the stigma, then brushing it into the female flower's stamen. I've done it and it works like a charm.
Eating The Blooms
Once the female flower has been pollinating, you can pluck it off and eat it! Similarly, if you have an abundance of male flowers, you can sacrifice a few for your dish.
Fresh, these have an extremely mild taste and work great as garnishes or integrated into a salad. Folks also love to batter and fry them up.
Just be sure to rinse well as insects may have found home in the enclosed flower.
As the Season Progresses
I loved growing these zucchini plants so much that I sowed a second container a little later into the season. The plant quickly caught up and was producing fruit about a month after my first. They weren't kidding when they say the leaves have an ornamental quality: I companion planted some purple alyssum and they made quite a pair.
Since squash are such heavy feeders, keeping the soil nutrient-rich throughout the season was extremely important: especially in container growing. I amended the soil with worm castings and composting throughout the season as well as watered with fish emulsion.
Cooking with the Zucchini
In our household, I'm the gardener and Waldek is the chef. Every morning, I would pluck any available zucchinis and leave it on the counter for him to brainstorm how to cook with it (aka Googling zucchini recipes). We've had them in breakfast omelettes (our favourite! A garden to table start right in the morning) and grilled as a side dish.
The perk with the 'Astia' variety is that it won't overwhelm you! Most gardeners that grow traditional squash know how huge their harvest can be and how easy it is to run out of friends and neighbours to share the "burden" with. Even though we got an abundance of fruit, they came steady and were very manageable for a family of two.
You can see my Instagram stories of this zucchini's journey here.