What would summer be like without zucchini? Generally speaking, I was expecting an overload of zucchini this year. I had doubled the number of zukes that I planted out this season, and while they have to be hand pollinated to foil Mother Nature, generally speaking, they are more than prolific. In fact, in places with a higher density of pollinators, they are known to take over whole city blocks. And other than the pollinator issue, if you give it some amended sand and copious amounts of water, it loves the desert. 90 degree days, doesn't bat an eye. 100 degrees, are you kidding, that's barely warming up. True, last year when we got to 108, it wasn't really happy, but hey, it was 108. ... but then along came 27 ravenous young chickens... and instead of a dozen zucchini plants (people would shudder and say in disbelief, "You planted a dozen zucchini plants?! Are you crazy?!"), I ended up with just two healthy plants and one that I really should just put out of it's misery.
My main crop of zukes was going to be the standard Black Beauty. She performed well for me in humid Georgia and the hot San Joaquin Valley. With pollination help, she did fine in the High Desert. Unfortunately, she was planted on the ground and was not equipped to deal with chickens. As a result, the only survivors were a few of my trial of Eight Ball Zucchini plants. And here is the first one to come to harvest - about the size of my fist.
This shows it in relation to my SLR camera lense cover for a size comparison. Generally, when the chickens are out, the raised bed is covered in chicken wire so they can't destroy the last of my zucchini plants.
And, of course, the obligatory Super Model Harvest Pose on the corner of the raised bed.
This is a baby Eight Ball, about an inch and a half in diameter right now. You can see where I cut off the top of the flower so that I could take a male flower and pollinate her. The high temps kill the pollen on the male flowers, so pollination has to take place between right before the male flowers open until it starts warming up around 10 a.m.
All in all, the Eight Ball Zukes don't produce nearly as many female flowers as Black Beauty, and the zukes don't have as much mass as a Black Beauty of comprable age - but they are cute and I think I will grow them again next year. Germination was good, but they have to have lots of water and shade their first few days if the temps are over 90*F. Plants are bushy, not viny, and tend to be pretty open. The stems and leaves have the traditional zucchini spines. I hope to have enough to make stuffed zucchini with them some day.