How to Hand-Pollinate Squash

Learn How to Pollinate Squash Flowers by Hand for a Better Harvest!

June 2, 2021

Pollinating squash flowers 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

The first step is to identify the male flowers and the female flowers. Male squash flowers have a straight, skinny stem behind the base of the flower, while female flowers have a swollen stem behind them (this is the immature fruit that will grow into the squash itself).

Inside the male flower you’ll see the stamen, which carry the pollen. Inside a female flower is the stigma, where you need to transfer the pollen to.

There are two ways to pollinate squash flowers.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 onto the stigma of a female flower to pollinate.

Hand-Pollinating to Save Squash Seeds

Squashes will cross-pollinate with each other, so to make sure that the seeds produced are the same variety as the mother plant, you need to prevent insects from pollinating the plants with other squashes’ pollen.

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 our complete Zucchini and Winter Squash Growing Guides.

Try Out the Almanac Garden Planner for Free

As a courtesy, the online Almanac Garden Planner is free for 7 days. This is plenty of time to play around on your computer and try it out. There are absolutely no strings attached. We are most interested in encouraging folks to try growing a garden of goodness! 

Try out the Garden Planner on your computer (for free).

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Reader Comments

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Pollinating Beefsteak Tomatoes

Replying to James Repine: The University of Arizona's Hydroponics programs found that electric toothbrushes are great for hand pollinating tomatoes. Apparently, the vibration of the electric toothbrushes is very close to the frequency of vibrations of bees' wings such that the anthers spread open to release/deposit the most pollen into/from the brush bristles. Short of bees, last I was at the farm it was the most-used method of pollination.

Pollinating squash

I now have bees to do the work.

pollinating tomatoes

I see very few bees in my garden. I have plenty of flowers on my beefsteak tomato plant, but no tomatoes. Can you hand pollinate the flowers by hand?

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