Gardening, Harvesting & Preserving

How To: Pollinate Your Vegetables

Earlier this year, I was dumbfounded when I discovered my vines, all three, cucumbers, zucchini and pumpkins, were not producing a single healthy vegetable between them all. Every time I would see the small vegetable just start to grow, it would drop off and die.

After searching the internet, I discovered that the most likely source of the problem was a lack of pollinating insects, and mainly bees. There has been a distinct lack of bees in my yard this year compared to two years ago, when my daughter and son could be found examining them on every bloom in my backyard. This year, the numbers are so greatly reduced it is alarming.

So I tried to remedy the situation by planting flowers between my vines to help attract bees. Nada. Nothing. Zip.

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So I went on to the next method I found: pollinating them by hand.

This involves using a Q-Tip or a cotton ball like below:

Find the female pumpkin flower when its open. Now this can be a bit of a trick, one second they are open, the next closed. You have to be vigilant and check every morning. The female pumpkin have the ball at the base, that will become the pumpkin once they are pollinated.

This is a male flower, there is no ball at the base, they are on long stems.

Take your Q-tip or cotton ball and gently brush the stamen. Boy, all my high school biology sure comes in handy some days!

Now you should have a lot of pollen ready to go.

Ever-so-gently brush the pollen against the pistil.

Now, if you have done it correctly and gently enough, this is what it will look like after 5 days. It does not take long with pumpkins, this one is the size of a small apple now! Unfortunately, I don’t think this little guy will be ready in time before it gets too cold, but it was a perfect way to show the natural progression of pollination for this post.

I am hoping to prevent having to do this hand pollination next year by planting highly attractive flowers for bees in my garden, I didn’t have the yield that I wanted at all this year. I can’t believe how many blooms there were on two pumpkin vines, and only one of my measly three pumpkins was “naturally conceived” .

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    karlynnj
    August 27, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    New blog post: How To: Pollinate Your Vegetables http://bit.ly/GhCXm
    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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