One of the easiest vegetable crops to grow, zucchini are prolific producers. Beginning gardeners often plant too many, and then spend the summer trying to give away some of their abundant harvest.

Zucchini need full sun, consistent moisture, and rich, organic soil. You can sow the seeds directly in the garden once all danger of frost has passed. Or, you can start the seeds indoors a few weeks earlier. Like other squash, zucchini plants don't like having their roots disturbed, so it's best to start them in 3" to 4" biodegradable pots that you can plant, pot and all, in the garden. The advantage to starting seeds in pots is twofold: You start the season with larger plants and you put out plants that are less vulnerable to striped cucumber beetles.

In regions where the striped cucumber beetles are present – most places – the best prevention is covering plants and newly seeded areas with garden fabric (row covers). Once the zucchini plants begin to produce flowers, remove the covers to allow insects to pollinate them.

Mulching your zucchini plants will keep weeds at bay and help retain soil moisture. Like other squash, zucchini need about an inch of water per week, either from the sky or from your hose.

Harvest zucchini when they are 6" to 8" long. Once the plants begin producing, check them every few days because the fruits grow quickly. Go out of town for a week and you may find yourself with a baseball bat-sized zucchini when you return! If you harvest plants regularly they will continue to pump out fruit right until frost.