The Q&A Archives: Non-bearing Summer Squash

Question: Last year I planted some yellow summer squash. Because the plot for my vegetable garden is so mall (3 1/2 feet by 7 feet), I had only two plants. The plants were really big and healthy and bloomed like crazy, but never bore fruit. A friend told me that squash are gendered plants and that I probably didn't have enough plants to have a male and female. Is this true? If so, how many plants do I need to have to make sure that I get fruit?

Answer: Your friend was on the right track-but not quite! Squash have specific male and female blossoms, but bear both on the same plant. They are quite distinguishable: the male flower has a straight stem; the female stem has a bulbous enlargement just below the flower, which eventually becomes the squash fruit. Usually the male flowers are produced before the female ones appear, and there are always more male flowers than female.

So your problem seems to be one of pollination. Is your garden sprayed? If so, possibly all the pollinators have been killed. Don't use insecticides indiscriminately to avoid losing the beneficial insects and pollinators. Do you use a row cover to protect your plants from cucumber beetles? If so, do you remember to remove it when the plant blooms so the pollinators can do their job? Hand pollination is possible, but if you are observant this summer, you should be able to watch nature does her job!

By the way, with a small garden, you can either chose a bush type squash that won't take much space, or consider a trellis to support the fruit of vining types. Enjoy!

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