Usually when you plant squash, bees come around to pollinate your garden, including the squash blossoms. However, if you live in an area where the bee population is small, you may have difficulties with squash pollination unless you do it yourself. You can hand pollinate zucchini and other squash by following a few simple steps. Hand pollinating squash isn't a difficult task, but it can be tedious. The first important step of hand pollination is to make sure your plants are producing both male and female flowers. If the weather is too hot or too cold, the production of female flowers will be low, making hand pollination a little difficult.
How to Hand Pollinate Squash
When you pollinate by hand, identify the male and the female flowers. The ratio of male to female flowers will vary depending on the type of squash you have planted. Only the female flowers can bear fruit, while the males are needed for pollination. When you look just below the flowers, you'll find that the male flowers have a plain stem under their flower and an anther inside the flower. If you touch the anther, you will see that pollen rubs off the anther. This is what makes it so easy to do hand pollinating -- pollen doesn't transfer by breeze, but can transfer by touch from an object. When you look at the flowers, you'll find that the female flowers have a tiny squash beneath the flower on the stem and a stigma inside the flower. There is a raised orange structure in the center of the stigma and that is where you will apply the pollen when you perform hand pollinating. Simply take a male anther and touch it to the female stigma a couple of times, as if brushing paint. This will be enough to pollinate the stigma, which will then produce squash. When you pollinate by hand, you aren't wasting flowers since picking the male flowers simply removes those that will never produce fruit anyway. When you pollinate by hand, you will yield quite a harvest if you do it right. Remember the difference between the male and female flowers, and be sure to remove only the male flower for hand pollination. After pollination, you can sit back, watch your squash grow, and harvest them as they are ready toward the end of summer.
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Kathee Mierzejewski was with Gardening Know How in the very beginning, writing many of the site's foundational articles.
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