Sex Ed.

by - May 07, 2009

Now, see there you go getting funny thoughts - this is why I typically avoid the topic, but we are talking SQUASH here, friends. Squash pollination brings lovely tender yellow fruits to the dinner table in the summer.

Last year my squash plants put out many flowers which never set fruit. Many of these were eaten by an unidentified scoundrel before squash vine borers and squash bugs destroyed the plants completely. Since then I have learned that there are both male and female flowers, and the male flowers don't set fruit. This was surprising to me because in elementary school science I learned the parts of the flower and all were a happy little family between one set of petals.

The male flowers have one stamen. The female flowers have one stigma and an ovum at the base of the flower, which is the squash fruit. I did a little reading and found that sometimes a single squash plant will open its male and female flowers at alternating times to encourage cross-pollination with other plants. I guess inbreeding is a problem for squash as well as Tennesseans. This is why it is good to grow several squash plants in close proximity to each other.

Due to the serious lack of honey bees and other pollinators, there's a lot of work that isn't getting done, leading to less abundant crops. For the home gardener, this can be remedied with a little third party action. Once you know how to identify a male flower, you can pick it, remove the stamen, and stick the stamen into the open female flowers and jiggle it around a little on the stigma to brush off the pollen.

Is pollinating squash plants by hand necessary? I really don't know, but I am going to give it a try this year and report back here.

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2 comments

  1. Sounds fun! I did alot of that with watermelon and cucumber plants when I worked in a NCSU greenhouse. It's easy, and if you have different varieties of squash you can try to get fancy and make some new combos!

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  2. Aw, the title totally sucked me in. :D Hm, artificially inseminating plants... I can think of worse jobs though.

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