Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Where's the Squash?!?!

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The Art of Hand Pollinating Squash Flowers

Every Fall, I look forward to planting, growing, and, especially, eating winter squash.  Butternut, acorn, spaghetti...I love it all!!  As the winter squash harvest slows down, thoughts of summer zucchini and yellow neck squash sauteed with fresh, garden grown tomatoes start occupying my mind . 

The first year we planted summer squash, we couldn't figure out why the fruit would form on the plant, shrivel up and fall to the ground.    This happened all summer.  I was so frustrated (insert temper tantrum here)...I wanted squash!!! 

A quick lesson on the birds and the bees gave a full explanation.  Apparently, we were lacking in the bee part of the equation.  You see, squash flowers need to be pollinated in order for the fruit to grow.   Upon more careful inspection, we came to realize that there were two different types of flowers growing on each plant--a male and a female.  

The female flower is the flower that has what looks like a baby fruit attached to the base of the flower.  The male flower has no fruit.  Looking inside the male flower, you can actually see pollen inside the flower all the way at the bottom.



The bees job is to get pollen from the male flower and transfer it to the female flower.  With all the pesticide sprays and other tampering we do with nature, bee populations are dropping exponentially.  No bees means no pollination.  No pollination means the fruit on the female flower shrivels up and falls to the ground.  And, that meant no squash for my tomatoes, and we were SO not having that happen!!

So, off to the garden we went with a handy dandy q-tip to act like bees.  If you have this problem, just grab a q-tip or a small paint brush, rub it down inside the male flower to gather some pollen and transfer the pollen to the female flower's pistel, and...voila...pollinated squash flowers.

Happy Gardening!!

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