Plants of the cucurbitaceae family (pumpkins, squash, courgette, cucumber) have male and female flowers. If you only have one or two plants then there may not be so many male flowers available when a female is open – it might be safer to hand pollinate than rely on insects. If your plants are indoors you may also need to hand pollinate due to a lack of insects.
Hand pollinating can be done in 3 easy steps…
- identify the male flowers (these are the flowers without a baby vegetable at the base, they just have a stalk)
- pull a male flower off and take all the petals off so the pollen covered stamen is exposed
- put the stamen into a female flower (one with a baby vegetable at the base of the flower) and make sure you cover the stylus in the middle of the flower with as much pollen as possible.
It is best to pollinate a female flower the day it opens. If the female flower is already old and wilting then you may be too late. If the flowers of these plants are not well pollinated then often the vegetables will simply drop off or will be stunted in their growth.
On the courgette plant pictured above the only male flower is to be seen centre left. There are two female that already have mature flowers. You can see a third female coming on just right of the male flower – she’s budding but not yet ready to open.