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Squash Sex: How to Pollinate Squash

Recently, I started an urban garden that bees seem to be avoiding like it’s a honey bear. This could be for several reasons but, I am guessing it is because the land has been mostly barren for several years. Because they have not had a food source, bees have not established themselves in the area.  

I am fixing this by planting flowers that will attract pollinators. In the meantime, I need to pollinate my squash plants by hand. Before we learn how to pollinate squash, we need to understand a little about Cucurbits.

how to pollinate squash

Bees usually pollinate squash but, if they are absent from your garden you will have to do the work for them.

Cucur…. What?

Cucurbita, or cucurbits, is the plant genus that contains summer and winter squash. This genus is native to the Americas and is pollinated by native squash bees as well as the non-native European honeybee. 

Cucurbits are monoecious meaning that male and female flowers both exist on the same plant. 

hand pollinate squash

Cucurbits are so photogenic.

Squash Flowers

It is easy to differentiate between female and male squash flowers. the female flowers have an ovary at their base that looks like a tiny squash (and if pollinated will develop into the squash).

male and female squash flowers

It is easy to differentiate between female and male squash flowers.

For pollination to occur, pollen must travel from the male flower to the female flower. Otherwise, the ovary will wither. 

You may notice that your young squash flowers only produce male flowers at first, this usually only lasts for a week or two at which point plenty of female flowers will emerge. 

Getting it on With the Squash

When both female and male flowers are present and open (usually in the morning), you can begin pollinating your squash flowers.

Using a pencil erasure, q-tip, paintbrush, or anything else that works, lightly brush the pollen from the male anther.

how to pollinate squash

This feels a little dirty.

Make sure that plenty of pollen attaches itself.

hand pollinate squash

The pollen comes right off.

Now, rub the pollen onto the stigma of the female flower, or onto several female flowers. 

how to pollinate squash

Gently transfer the pollen to the stigma of the female flower

That’s all there is to it! In a few days the flower will shrivel up and the squash will start to fill out.

squash pollination

Click on the below images to purchase high-quality squash seed.

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