I think it was a two-part problem. One, the hellish, unrelenting heat of the Phoenix desert. Once the temps started hitting the 100s every day and not cooling off below the 80s at night, the plant leaves started looking drier, browner, and wiltier. I watered as much as I was able, but my research showed me that most people who get their plants to survive the summer around here have a combined approach of constant watering misters and shade cloths, all stuff I'm too much of a cheapskate to shell out for.
Secondly, in the last couple weeks of their lives, the zucchini plants had a growing squash bug problem. I killed them when I saw them, but I'm sure plenty hid from me, and I saw they were laying eggs everywhere. And, apparently, no poison can kill them? The zucchini had stopped producing fruit at this time so I decided the best thing to do was just rip them all up and try again in the fall, once it's cooler. And I'll try to see if there are any squash bug preventative measures I can take.
Also, here's a fun fact about growing your own zucchini that nobody ever tells you: the fruit contain a substance that secretes when it is cut, and this substance, if it gets on your skin, dries it out and makes it tight-feeling, and eventually it peels. Almost as if your fingers are coated in dried glue, but it's just your skin. I haven't been able to find much info about this reaction from the zucchini, because a lot of my googling led to crazy talk about how it's the pesticides that cover the zucchini or it's a result of GMO or whatever. Considering I grew this myself and put no pesticides on it whatsoever, I know that's a falsehood. I saw a lot of people think it is a allergic reaction/contact dermatitis, but I've been eating zucchini bough at the store for a long time and that never happened to me before. It was only with my own zucchini. I managed to find a few sane people who put some thought into it, and their conclusion is that it is some sort of defense mechanism from the fruit. It turns out the fresher the harvest, the more likely the fruit is to have this reaction. So eventually I learned to keep my zucchini in the fridge for a week or two before cutting into it. (And that explains why store-bought zucchini never does this, since store-bought probably sat in a crate for three weeks before hitting the shelf!)
My zucchini and I had some educational and delicious moments. Here is a small photospam of the good times we had together, in memoriam:
|a typical harvest off my plants. so pretty!|
|the first meal made with the first harvest. a chicken leg and herb-roasted zucchini|
|made "zucchini boats" with tomato sauce, sausage, and cheese|
|unbelievably delicious. and also, super filling. i could barely finish this.|
|me with the first harvest. RIP zucchini|