summer squash - Knowledgebase Question

West Bloomfield, MI
Question by stormiemich
August 7, 2007
This is the third year that I can not get my summer squash to pollinate and produce fruit? Are there any tips you can offer? My mother says they are placed too close to the cukes. Is there any truth to that? Thank you in advance

Answer from NGA
August 7, 2007


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.

If fruits don't form, pollination isn't occuring. 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 beetles? If so, do you remember to remove it when the plant blooms so the pollinators can do their job? You may have heard that bee populations are in great decline. Bees pollinate one-third of all the food we eat, so it's a huge problem. Next year, you might plant flowers amongst your veggies to encourage more visits by pollinators. Vining crops might cross-pollinate unless they're planted a great distance apart. The cross-pollination will not affect the fruits of the plants, but will affect the seeds contained within them. If you saved, then planted the seeds, you'd end up with something other than the parent plant. But since you're not getting any fruits at all, it's likely a lack of pollinators, so you might want to try hand pollinating.

Pollination occurs when pollen is transfered from stamens to pistils in the flower.
Stamens contain the male reproductive parts of the flower. A stamen has a slender stalk called a filament, topped by an anther, which is often yellow. The anther contains pollen.

Pistils, in the center of the flower, is the female part of the flower. A pistil consists of an ovary at the base where seeds form and a stalklike tube called a style. The style has the stigma on top, which receives the pollen.

Most flowers contain both male and female parts. Some plants have male (without a small fruit behind the flower) and female flowers (with a small fruit behind the flower)., in particular the vining crops such as cukes, squash, and melons.

You can hand pollinate the blossoms yourself by taking a small artist?s paint brush or Q-tip and rubbing the pollen from the male onto the female. I hope this info helps!

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