There’s nothing quite like a zucchini. These fruits are versatile, readily becoming cakes or a savory side at your summer barbeque. If you’re growing your own and have noticed a lightness in the ordinarily dark green color, you may be wondering what’s up.
Zucchini might be growing light green if it’s been left too long on the vine. Usually, zucchini will get darker as they grow and lighten up as they rot. However, lack of pigmentation could indicate a more significant problem such as nutrient deficiency or improper lighting.
Below, I will discuss all possible reasons your zucchini crop has grown into a lighter green. Additionally, I will talk about how your zucchini’s appearance can indicate how healthy the plant is and how you’ll know it’s time to harvest.
Why Are Your Zucchinis Light Green?
Zucchini fruit is typically a dark olive green color, somewhere between the light yellow shades of their squash cousins and the dark emerald green of the unripe fruits. You’ll notice a change in color as your plants grow and later on as they ripen, but what does light green mean?
Your zucchinis might be light green due to a nutrient deficiency, poor pollination, low sunlight, or accidental cross-contamination of other squash plants. Additionally, it may indicate that your plants are still growing and aren’t quite ready to pick yet.
A light green color isn’t enough to diagnose a plant with much, so be observant of the leaves and fruits growing from your zucchini plant.
Here are the most common reasons why a zucchini plant is light in color:
Zucchinis May Still Be Growing or Overgrown
One of the difficult things to pindown about squash, specifically zucchinis, is how the coloring changes as they grow.
Sometimes, a zucchini-colored fruit will immediately begin growing from the flower. However, sometimes it might be lighter in color or even yellow as it comes off the plant.
Color changes can be challenging to see when you look at your plant every day, but a quick speed video can illustrate how significant the difference can be.
Additionally, if you were to set up a timelapse of your zucchini plant, you’d likely notice how quickly the plant changes color. This time-lapse video shows the changes:
So, an off-color might indicate that your plant is not ready to be picked. Otherwise, it might also mean you’ve left on the plant for too long.
Other characteristics, like the texture of the skin and firmness of the body, should tell you where your plant is at growth-wise. Later in the article, I’ll talk about the importance of harvesting your zucchini at the right time.
You May Have Planted a Lighter Variety or Crossbred Your Zucchini
Some zucchini tend to be a lighter green, and as long as the skin looks and feels healthy, it’s likely fine. There are many different breeds and varieties of zucchini, ranging in color from light green to tan to yellow to striped.
If you have grown squash for a few years and have recently rotated your garden beds, it’s also possible you’ve cross-bred your zucchini, but this is more likely to happen if you plant other squash nearby and find that they have turned green.
Your Zucchini May Have a Nutrient Deficiency
If you have read any of my articles on the importance of soil, pH, or nutrients, you’ll remember that plants require thirteen essential nutrients in their soil. A nutrient deficiency can affect the plant’s overall growth, stunt them halfway through its lifecycle, or change some critical features of the plant.
Nitrogen deficiencies can sometimes make themselves known through discoloration of plants, particularly in yellowing leaves that usually are brighter green. You can test your soil for nitrogen deficiencies and add compost or mulch to support nitrogen.
Additionally, an off pH can make essential nutrients unavailable to your plants. Though you may have tons of nutrients in your soil, improper pH levels will make it difficult for your zucchini plant to absorb them. Do a pH test or use a pH meter to see if this is the issue at hand.
Your Zucchini May Be Poorly Pollinated
If you notice an off-taste in addition to the lighter green color, this may be a problem with pollination. Because zucchini is a flowering fruit, pollination is essential.
If you do not fully fertilize the zucchini flowers, the fruit could likely taste slightly off or create a poor crop. Lack of complete pollination could also cause color changes.
Pollination is a complicated subject because it usually isn’t an isolated factor. There are typically one or more other factors that go into it. Often pollination problems can be as small-scale as watering or sunlight mistakes on your part or as widespread as a lack of pollinators in any given area. Adding pollinator-attracting plants to your garden is an excellent way to ward off this problem.
Ladybugs, butterflies, and bees are common garden pollinators. Try to refrain from squishing or shooing these helpful “pests” from your garden.
Your Zucchini May Be Getting Too Much or Not Enough Light
Another common problem that may cause your zucchini to grow differently than they have in past years is light. A zucchini plant requires at least 6-8 hours of light. And the zucchini need bright sunlight, not just partial sunlight in a shady part of the garden. It’s best to put your zucchini in a space where they can be exposed to sunlight fully for a quarter of the day.
Sunlight promotes photosynthesis, making or breaking a plant’s life cycle. Not getting enough sunlight could make your plant become a brighter green before its life cycle has ended.
Additionally, if you’ve noticed your plants are a light green after their life cycle has ended, meaning they’ve already missed their chance for harvest, you may be giving them too much light. Fruits and vegetables ripen in the sun, so too much sunlight could also cause your produce to ripen prematurely.
You can fix this issue by allowing your plants a spot in the garden that gives just the right amount of sunlight. Moisture meters are a lifesaver for this kind of thing since your plants can’t precisely speak and tell you what’s going on (though we can try to translate discoloration, wilting, and a few other signs).
A moisture meter can tell you how much sunlight any given patch of your garden is getting. Compare results to the preferred sunlight levels for zucchini.
When Should You Harvest Your Zucchini?
If you’ve realized your zucchini has turned light yellow because you left it out in the sun or on the vine too long, you may be wondering when it’s time to grab your zucchini from the plant. Many people leave zucchini on for too long since these plants continue to grow past the point of harvest. So, when’s the right time?
You should harvest your zucchini when they’ve reached the proper size (around 7 to 8 inches or 18 to 20 centimeters) and color. Their bodies will be firm, and the skin should be waxy. Plucking your zucchini too late or too early will affect the taste of your fruit.
Knowing it’s time to harvest is just as much about texture and color as size. Additionally, a waxy coating on the outside of the zucchini is an essential indicator of the fruit’s point in the life cycle.
As a good rule of thumb, you should pay attention to numerous factors in your zucchini plant, not just the fruit itself. It’s time to harvest your zucchini when:
- The plant has flowered about 3-4 days prior.
- Your zucchini have reached a standard size (between 7 to 8 inches or 18 to 20 centimeters in length).
- The zucchini has become a lighter, olive green color.
- The texture of the zucchini is waxy.
- The body of the zucchini feels firm, not too hard (too early to harvest), and not too mushy (too late to harvest).
Then, instead of plucking right from the garden (which can harm the fruit), you can use some garden scissors to cut your zucchini from the vine.
There are lots of ways to store your zucchini:
- Keep them on the counter in a dry spot.
- Find a cool, dry location in the fridge for them.
- Freeze them. You’ll just need to blanch your zucchini for a minute or two before adding them to a storage bag.
- Do some canning or pickling if you’ve got an extra-large bounty.
If your zucchini are lighter in color, feel mushy, and aren’t as waxy as they should be, you have probably missed the harvesting window.
However, the tricky part about a light green zucchini is it can indicate any number of things. Look for other symptoms in your zucchini plant to help you investigate the root cause of the problem.
If it’s still firm and waxy, it could be a nutrient deficiency or lighting problem. It’s also possible that your current crop is just lighter in color.
You can read my other article on whether you can still eat deformed zucchinis here: Can You Still Eat Deformed Zucchinis From Your Garden?