Pollinating squashes by hand is essential if insect pollinators are scarce or you just want to make extra-sure that your squash will grow! In this short video, we’ll show you how to hand pollinate all kinds of squash, step by step.
Hand pollinating squashes is an easy and effective way to boost your yields when natural pollinators are scarce due to weather conditions or when growing under cover in a greenhouse or hoop house. It’s also essential for making sure that squash plants breed true when seed saving.
How to Hand Pollinate Squash Flowers
Male squash flowers have a straight stem behind the flower, while female flowers have a swelling behind them (the immature fruit).
Inside the male flower you can see the stamen, which carry the pollen, and inside a female flower is the stigma, where you need to transfer the pollen to.
There are two ways to pollinate squash flowers.
- You can simply cut a male squash flower off the plant, remove the petals to expose the stamen, and then rub it gently against the stigma of a female flower to pollinate it.
- Alternatively, gather pollen from the stamen of a male flower onto a soft-bristled artist’s paintbrush. The yellow pollen will be clearly visible on the brush. Brush the pollen on onto the stigma of a female flower to pollinate.
Hand Pollinating to Save Squash Seed
Squashes will cross-pollinate with each other, so to make sure that seeds produced are the same variety as the mother plant you need to prevent insects from pollinating the plants.
Choose one or two female flowers and cover the flower with a light, breathable fabric such as muslin, tying it around the stem at the back so the flower is enclosed. When the flower opens, remove the fabric and hand pollinate as described above. Cover the flower up again and keep it in place until the flower drops off. Tie a ribbon around the stem so you know from which fruits to collect your seeds.
For more information about planting, growing, and harvesting squash, check out the complete Squash Growing Guide from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
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