Hand pollinating squash and zucchini plants is an easy way to increase your harvest and is easier than you think!
The first year we moved to Georgia I planted a very ambitious garden, complete with both yellow squash and zucchini. My plants grew quite large and had plenty of flowers but I never produced any veggies at all. It was so disappointing!
After doing some research I realized this was not an uncommon problem. Squash plants are notorious for being difficult to pollinate, actually the entire Cucurbit family – squash, cucumbers, melons, gourds, and pumpkins - have this issue.
Ready to start a garden? Be sure to read about beginner gardening mistakes, how to build a raised garden bed kit, or how to make an inexpensive raised bed from cedar fencing!
Why Do Squash Have Poor Pollination?
- very cool or very warm weather spells can reduce pollination
- low bee population
- watering the plant from above in the morning when flowers are open
How to Tell Male and Female Squash Flowers Apart
When your squash plant first starts to flower you will notice all the flowers are male, after a couple of weeks the female flowers will start to appear. It is easy to tell the two apart once you learn how.
Male flowers have no fruit at the base of the flower and the anther inside is a single point covered in pollen.
Female flowers will have a small immature fruit at the base of the flower.
The inside of the female flower blossom has a multilobed stamen.
How to Pollinate Squash by Hand
It is super simple to pollinate squash yourself, simply pick a male flower and remove the petals, then touch the anther to the stamen of the female flower to transfer the pollen. You can also use a cotton swab or small paintbrush to transfer the pollen as well.
The male flowers drop off the plant after blooming anyways, so you aren't hurting anything. You will notice within a day or two the immature fruit of the female flower will start to grow larger after the flower falls off!
This technique works on all Cucurbit plants, although I will caution you that cucumber flowers are quite a bit smaller and I've accidentally knocked the flower off trying to pollinate them before so I usually only do this on the larger squash and zucchini flowers.
Hand pollinating is a super easy way to increase your harvest, have you tried it yet?