The straightneck early yellow squash in my garden would start to form and then mysteriously die on the plant.
I’ve always had plenty of bees and other pollinators in my garden, so it didn’t occur to me my summer squash was dying on the plant because of a pollination problem.
When I was at CSU last week for the short course program, I had the chance to ask Carol O’Meara what the problem could be. She asked questions to determine the cause: Blossom end rot? Inconsistent watering? Watering from above? Pollination problems?
I had to answer, no, no, no–wait. Pollination problems? Maybe. Even though I’ve seen bees in the garden, they don’t seem to be finding my squash blossoms. Carol suggested hand pollination. I tried it and it seems to have worked.
If you’re having trouble with squash dying before maturity, you may be having pollination problems, too.
Here’s how to take over the pollinator’s task to pollinate by hand:
- Pick a male squash blossom. The male blossoms have a long stem without the “bump” where the stem meets the blossom. Pick the blossom from the plant so you have the long stem to use as a handle.
- Fold back the leaves so that the stamens, filaments and pollen-covered anthers are visible.
- Locate the female squash blossoms. These are the blossoms that have a squash forming at the base of the blossom.
- Disperse pollen from the male blossom to the female blossom by gently rubbing the parts together.
Successful pollination means you’ll see the squash growing larger every day instead of shriveling up. Pictorials of the process can be found on several websites.