Monday, June 3, 2013

Plenty of Blossoms, But No Big Zucchini

My Raven zucchini plants are flowering, but it will be awhile before I have sizable squashes to eat. That's because the flowers that are farthest along in development are all female.

Squash family plants have separate female and male flowers. Annoyingly, if the two kinds aren't open and ready at the same time, no pollination takes place, and the little fruits at the base of the female flowers just languish, wilt, and drop off.

Two female flowers, fat yellow buds almost ready to open, sit on tiny, undeveloped squashes. PHOTO/Amy W.
The male flowers sit on top of slender stems, rather than on tiny squashes. In the second picture (below), there is a male flower in the foreground. It is still very green, and I don't expect it to mature for a few more days. In that time, a lot of female flowers in my squash patch will have opened and missed being pollinated.

Male squash flower in the foreground sits on a slender stem rather than a tiny fruit.  PHOTO/Amy W.
Anyone who's had the experience of seeing lots of blossoms, but a week or so passes without any squash developing, has probably had this same situation -- lots of one kind of flower and none of the other. Eventually, the other flowers develop and the squash/fruits finally begin to grow, but the wait can be tough.

For gardeners whose squash patches are small (just a few plants), if a quick check of the plants shows a few females but only one male in full bloom, that mature male flower can be plucked from the plant, the petals torn away, and pollen-holding parts (anthers) used to pollinate all the open female flowers.

In the early part of squash season, I tend to do just that -- "be the bee" for a couple of weeks -- until I see plenty of pollinators working to take back that job.

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