Pollinating Summer Squash By Hand

It’s time for us to talk about squash! We grow a ton of them, both summer and winter varieties! Our plants have started to pack on those flowers, so we’re nearing summer squash season!

A key thing to understand about squash is that most of them are what are called monoecious. This means that there are separate male and female flowers on the plant.

The female flower will feature a small, miniature version of the squash type that you are growing. The male flower will not have this squash, it basically looks like a flower.

The key to pollination with squash is that pollen must travel from the male flower to the female flower. Normally, it is the role of bees and other pollinators to perform this duty. If this fails to happen in a timely manner, you will not get a full size squash.

A very common thing gardeners run into is a complaint where their small squash from the female flower suddenly perishes. Many misinterpret this to be some sort of nutritional issue and start putting stuff on their squash plants. That’s not at all what’s going on! This is the plant aborting the squash since it was not successfully pollinated!

If you are having this problem, it’s likely because pollinators are not choosing your plants. While there are ways to increase pollinators, we promote them here at least weekly, there’s a way you can pollinate by hand!

Take a Q-Tip and gently rub it on the pistils of one or more male flower from the same kind of squash plant. You should get some light yellow looking stuff on the Q-tip. Take this and very gently brush it onto the pistils of the female flowers. (You can definitely pollinate multiple female flowers!) We suggest doing this every few days until you see signs of successful pollination. Once the squash starts getting bigger, you know you have successful pollination!

Pollination by hand gets easier the more you practice it. It’s scary at first, but then it becomes second nature and is no big deal. Just be gentle, you’re not going to harm the plant!

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