Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Birds and the Bees

I’m new to gardening . . . we always had a vegetable garden growing up but this year is the first time I’ve ever had a garden of my very own.  My husband has gardened before but even so it’s been a learning experience for us both.

I’ve learned interesting things about squash plant pollination.

There are boy flowers and girl flowers.  When the boy and girl flowers meet they fall in love and . . . no, that’s another story.
Zucchini blossoms DO come in pollen-bearing male form, and the ovary-bearing female form, with both forms being present on the plant.
Zucchini blossoms are most commonly pollinated by European honey bees.  There is a hive located on the community garden property and I’ve seen the bees happily buzzing from flower to flower in my own garden. 
Take care when watering . . . especially in the morning make sure you don't water overhead so that the male flowers can have a chance to pollinate the female flowers.  The male flowers will open up before dawn and will close completely by mid-morning. The male flowers possess both pollen and nectar, the female flowers only nectar. If the plants are watered from overhead early in the day, that may prevent all further pollination for that day. The pollen gets washed off the short-lived male flowers and replacement flowers do not open then until the following morning.
Zucchini blossoms will fall off the plant if the pollination between the male and female blossoms is poor. Basically, the plant will abort the female blossoms if they are not pollinated well enough.

DON’T BE ALARMED if the flowers zucchini blossoms are falling off the plant.  It is perfectly natural and is usually not an indicator of any problems with the plant itself.  Once male zucchini blossoms have opened to release their pollen, they simply fall off the plant. Many times, a zucchini plant will produce only male blossoms when first in bloom to ensure that pollen will be available when the female blossoms open. The male blossoms will all fall off, making it seem as though the zucchini plant is losing all of its flowers. Don’t worry, female blossoms will open soon and you will get zucchini squash.
I should know . . . I have lots and lots of blossoms and we’ve harvested a bunch of zucchini already.

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