Hand pollinating squash
Back when we lived and gardened in Georgia, I had never heard of hand pollinating squash. I did not really give the idea of squash being pollinated much thought at all. I planted a garden, prayed for it to prosper and nature took care of pollination without my even knowing it.
Then we moved to Ohio in the middle of a corn and soybean field away from the trees and brush I was used to, and apparently, away from the bees as well. The first year we planted a garden, we were disappointed to find our squash plants were producing no squash. There would be baby squash, but instead of maturing, it would rot. If it did try to grow, it was stunted and ill formed.
As I began looking into the problem, I learned that the bloom on the baby squash was the female and if it did not get pollinated by the male blossom, the squash would not mature, but would rot and drop off instead. Bees are the nature’s pollinators. Sadly, the insecticides sprayed on the fields around us killed many of the bees in the area. I began hand pollinating squash and sure enough, they stopped rotting and starting maturing.
It is easy to tell the difference between the male and female blossoms. The female blossom opens on the end of a baby squash. The male blossom is simply attached to a long narrow green stem.
It is also easy to hand pollinate the squash. Take a small paint brush and run it along the anther of the male blossom. The brush should have some nice yellow pollen on the bristles. Then rub the pollen all over the stigma of the female blossom.
You will need to check your squash plants every morning for new open blossom. The squash has to be pollinated the day the blossoms open. The flower petals start to close up to protect the pollinated stigma and if closes before it gets pollinated then the baby squash will not mature.
This basic concept of hand pollinating squash also applies to butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and zucchini. The female flowers all look pretty much the same; only they will be opening and blooming from the end of a baby butternut squash, a baby spaghetti squash, or a baby zucchini. All the male flowers look the same on their long plain green stems.
While it was not fun losing our squash crop when we first moved up here. I’m glad to have learned about hand pollinating squash. At least once at one of the farmer’s markets I have met someone who was puzzled over the fact that their zucchini or squash plants looked great, but all the little squashes were rotting. I was happy to be able to suggest what the problem might be and how easy it was to fix it by hand pollinating the squash. And if this post helps you, I will be happy about that as well. One of the blessings of things “going wrong” in life is to be able to help or at least empathize with others in a similar plight.