Hand-Pollinating Zucchini Flowers
20 May 2009 134 Comments
We had some problems this year with getting zucchini fruit to set. They would grow OK for a while, then shrivel up, rot and drop off the vine. The problem is that the fruit are not getting pollinated. This job is normally done by bees, but for some reason this year they're not doing it. I don't know why - we still see plenty around the garden. Strange. So, I'm reduced to doing the job of the bees by hand-pollinating zucchini flowers. The basic idea of hand pollination is to transfer pollen from a male flower onto the female flower. This causes the seeds in the immature fruit to become fertile, and so it grows to maturity in order to perpetuate the species. If the seeds aren't pollinated, the plant isn't going to waste energy growing a non-viable fruit. It just withers and drops off, and the plant tries again with a fresh flower. The best time for pollinating zucchini flowers is in the morning, when they're fresh and just-opened. Later in the day the heat starts to wilt the flowers and dry them out. So how do you know which flower is male and which is female? The male zucchini flower has a thin stem, and a single pointy bit inside it (the stamen) covered in dust-like pollen. hand pollinating pumpkin and squash flowers, which is a very similar process.