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A Helping Hand

By now you should hopefully have healthy, lush green squash plants. You may be growing, pumpkins, butternut squash, turks turban, melons or maybe even spaghetti squash, (I could go on listing different squash plants, but I think you get the idea). Regardless of the type or variety, they all need one very important ‘P’ in order to bear fruit………’Pollination’.

Now, ordinarily this will be done for us by our little pollinator friends, but sometimes they may need a little helping hand which is where you and I step in to hand pollinate the flowers ourselves.

This may sound an extremely complex and tricky thing to do, but trust me it’s easy and you will see the benefits in no time at all.

You may be familiar with the big, blousy beautiful yellow flowers squash plants produce. These flowers may all look the same at first glance, but look a little closer and you will see they have one very important difference; some are male and some are female.

Your plants will produce male and female flowers which are both essential components in the production of fruit.

Hand pollinating is a very straight forward process; your plants will produce fruit once pollen from the males’ stamen reaches the pistil of the female. Normally, bees & other insects will unknowingly do this for you as they travel from flower to flower searching for nectar. However, it can sometimes become evident that this isn’t happening as you begin to see the flowers shrivel and die with not a single squash in sight.

A Male Flower
A male flower

This is where you step in and take nature into your own hands…..literally.

Firstly, you need to establish which are the male and which are the female flowers. They both have the same vibrant yellow colour but, the female flowers will have a tiny growth at the base of the flower which are the beginnings of your soon to be yummy squash, whereas the male flower with simply have a long thin stem.

So once you’ve established which is which, it’s time to transfer the pollen from the male to the female.

To hand pollinate you can use a paint brush, a feather or even your finger. Simply rub your chosen implement onto the male stamen covering it with pollen. Then rub your pollen covered utensil onto the long pistil in the centre of the female flower and that’s it, (see, I told you it was easy).

The Beginnings of a Female Flower
The beginnings of a female flower

If you want to be really efficient and pollinate lots of female flowers very quickly, you can detach the male flower from the plant completely and then rub the insides of the two flowers together which you can do multiple times.

The results should be evident very soon afterwards as you begin to see lots of fruits starting to appear all over your plot or garden.

Just a little side note though; you may be looking at your plants & thinking ‘I’ve only got male flowers?’, or, ‘I don’t have any flowers at all?!’. Don’t panic, keep your plants really well watered, the flowers will follow very soon after.

I would love to hear how you get on, please get in touch and let me know.

Good luck!

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