Zucchini may be the last item on your alphabetical list of summer fruits and vegetables, but thanks to this summer squash's prolific ability to thrive, it could be the first thing many a neighbor wakes up to this August 8th.

A Vine That's Berry Easy to Cultivate

Yellow Zucchini

Botanically speaking, the zucchini is actually a fruit. The long, green squash that varies in shape and color with some species presenting in yellows, oranges, and even white is actually a large berry of the zucchini flower. The fruit is a very swollen ovary of the vining plant, but similar to the tomato fruit once a zucchini leaves your garden and hits your plate, nutritionists and those in the culinary world deem it a vegetable.

Regardless of what you call it, by late summer one thing that's abundantly clear to gardeners is that it's almost too easy to grow. The fast growing fruit does so well in warm months, that from the moment you plant zucchini seeds in the ground to the moment you plop one of those baby marrows outside your neighbor's front door, you may only need 30 to 60 days. Healthy vines can produce fruit that can grow two inches per day!

While it can be tempting to let yours grow out to epic, County Fair proportions as unharvested specimens can easily reach nine pounds, the best zucchini are harvested while they're still relatively immature. Depending on how you plan to use your zucchini, aim to cut them from the vine when they're between 4 and 8 inches in length with healthy fruits of that length having a diameter at least a few inches wide. At the height of the growing season, gardeners can find themselves picking freshly engorged gourds every couple of days. Your plant will continue to produce all season so quashing squashes before they can top your scales also prevents that excess weight from snapping vines or trellises and ruining your entire plant.

National Zucchini Day

Zucchini in Burlap Sack

With all of this in mind, Pennsylvania gardener and radio host Tom Roy and his wife created National Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day and set it on August 8th as August is about the time most growers grow tired of zucchini vines taking up space in their yard and get sick of the creeping cucurbit crashing every summer salad or backyard grill and moseying its way into muffins and meals you'd least suspect. Initially meant as a gag and an excuse to unload excess harvest, a surprising amount of gardeners partake in the fun each season with an unsurprising amount of non-gardening neighbors left scratching their heads. The date is now National Zucchini Day and its timing also coincides with National Farmer's Market Week, another way to handle harvest leftovers.

How to Celebrate

Even if you don't have zucchini's popping up this year, you can still join in on the fun. According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, Roy says “To celebrate it, you simply wait until the dead of night and quietly creep up to your neighbors’ front doors, leaving plenty of zucchini for them to enjoy," so it seems store bought zucchini is perfectly festive. Proper sneaking is the real key to doing this day up right.

However, if you're a NSSZOYNPD purist and really want it to be your Italian squash that gets snuck across the property line next year make sure you're growing them properly. While this entire fun holiday underscores the ease of overproducing, it is still possible to make mistakes.

A couple obvious but avoidable errors come down to understanding your plant hardiness zone and the season. As their name suggests, these summer squashes grow best in warm weather and typically thrive in hardiness zones 2 through 11 which makes them quite versatile.

Edible Blossoms to Fresh Fruit

Zucchini Blossom

A much more common issue is zucchini plants which only blossom and never fruit. Sometimes this is just a matter of time. Cucurbita pepo cylindrica produces both male and female flowers with the male flowers being the first ones to develop on a young plant, but only the female flowers that form later in the growth cycle will actually mature into fruit. Prior to the fruiting stage, a good method for spotting the difference between a male blossom and a female one is the stem. Male stems tend to be longer while female flowers have shorter stems with a small bulge at their base. This bump eventually matures into the zucchini fruit in female flowers that are properly tended to.

When selecting a planting spot consider where your vines will be trained to spread, as you want pollinators to have easy access all around the plant to bring pollen from the males to females. Poor pollination or unintended cross-pollination are two common causes of zucchini not fruiting in plants that vine, flower, and look healthy all summer only to deliver a disappointing squash harvest.

The blossoms are edible so don't despair if that's all this August yields. These edible flowers are used in recipes that range from stuffing them with ooey, gooey cheese to a snack that's battered and fried.

Preserving Excess Zucchini

Pile of frozen zucchini slices

Let's say you've eaten your fill of fruit, or veg, or fried cheese flowers. Why not save the zucchini for a rainy day or preserve the nutritious blossoms for a recuperative winter soup?

Unlike many other summer fruit, zucchinis will spoil notoriously fast. Some methods of preservation are possible but even when the harvested veggies are properly wrapped and stored in a refrigerator, they'll only last a couple of weeks. Planning to freeze your zucchini? Take the extra step of blanching them in boiling water before freezing to slow how quickly the zucchini turns brown or mushy, which under these conditions should still only be a couple of months.

The more simple gardening solution is to take a small, clandestine stroll next door and offboard that gourd on your neighbor's porch.