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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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squash pollination problem

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Post  jarity 8/6/2015, 6:36 pm

Need a bit of help with my squash not  bearing fruit.
I have a rooftop garden 2 x 3 ft on the 9th floor so i rarely see any bees. At present i have 1 full size squash.
I have read quite a bit on hand pollination but i don't see any female plants with the little squash under the flower. Albeit i have plenty male flowers but they are turning brown and falling off after awhile?. Also the flowers are never open and i have checked all times of the day?
The squash is "table dainty" and it is a real climber.
thanx for any suggestions
jarity
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Post  CapeCoddess 8/6/2015, 6:52 pm

Hi Jarity! I have to plant many squash plants to get a few female flowers in my garden. For instance, at the moment I have about 6 butternut plants about 10 ft long each and only 2 fruits amongst all of them with no more female flowers in sight. Others can have mature squash all along a single vine. To my mind there's just no rhyme or reason.
idk
It may behoove us to research which varieties produce the most female flowers for next year.
study
CC
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Post  Marc Iverson 8/6/2015, 7:26 pm

It can be a waiting game and sometimes you get nothing, or waste a lot of the season by only getting fertilization late. A couple thoughts:

According to an experienced member here, Pollinator, most bees aren't all that attracted to squash. So you might want to try either creating a very bee-friendly habitat -- lots of flowers and flowering herbs -- or pollinating by hand. You can't do the latter without a female flower present, but they can come and go in a day ... so you might want to pluck the occasional male flower and put it in the fridge in case you see a female flower the next day. It's not like the male flowers are going to do you any good when they're sitting out there all by themselves, anyway. What's really aggravating is finally getting a female flower or two when for once you have no males!

My recollection is that Pollinator notes that pollen is usually most viable before the day's heat and/or dryness has had a chance to kill it off. So perhaps that male flower should be plucked early.
Marc Iverson
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Post  Scorpio Rising 8/6/2015, 7:32 pm

Hi jarity! Do you have any flowers on your rooftop? I think you may want to put some other attractants out there for your pollinators, there are a bunch of annuals that you could put into planters to help the cause. I have never had any luck with the one year I tried hand-pollinating....what kind of squash is it?

I really think you need some bee/pollinator magnets up there!
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Post  CapeCoddess 8/6/2015, 7:47 pm

The morning viability of the male flower is good to know, Marc.

Another problem I've had this year is that most of the little squashes have shriveled up and fallen off before the female flower ever opened. I haven't found any reasons for that yet but I often felt like I wanted to open the female bud and hand pollinate it. I believe I tried it once last year and it didn't take. I guess it just wasn't mature enough yet.
Anyone know why the fruit would abort before the flower opens?

CC
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Post  reynajrainwater 8/7/2015, 2:01 am

I'm having a similar problem with my pumpkin plant. The female flowers seem to dry up and harden before they have a chance to open. I am no expert but here in Phoenix it's probably due to the 110+ temps. At this time I've kind of given up on anything really growing and are focusing on keeping my plants alive through the summer. They all seem to be doing good. I keep them covered with burlap and water deeply every 3 days.
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Post  Marc Iverson 8/7/2015, 2:22 am

I'd love Pollinator's feedback here.

I've had the same problem with female flowers failing to open. I think it may have something to do with the high heat, wind, or other things creating moisture problems. Squash flowers are so delicate and water helps give plants turgidity -- perhaps the super-thin, delicate petals simply don't have the strength to stay taut and open when they can't retain enough moisture in their tissues?

I do know that a few times I wondered what was wrong with those flowers, pulled open the collapsed leaves ... and found the flower buds stuffed with earwigs or crawling with ants.

Some more ideas -- I've read that sometimes the main reason pests attack your crops is because they need water. That's one reason why you see little holes in things like apples or tomatoes but no more -- the critter has satisfied its thirst, but is not necessarily hungry.

Something else I read ties directly into that. It's often thought bugs come into your house for food, but the truth is that they often come for water. The world outside is full of suitable animal and insect food of all types, but water is much more rare. A dripping faucet may attract and nourish more cockroaches etc. than unrinsed cans or food scraps.

And a third play on that idea -- here and elsewhere I've read about the importance of water to both bees and birds that prey on harmful insects. Putting out water can do a lot to attract them. I tested this idea and found it very true with bees. We have many types over here. I put out a couple of bowls filled with stones anywhere from a half inch to a few inches across, which I had rinsed to get rid of any mud or yucky stuff like mosses or algae. I filled the bowls so that numerous rock surfaces projected up from the top of the water, for bees to perch on.

Whenever I go out to the garden, if there is any water left(it's usually gone in a day or less), I see bees drinking out of the bowl, holding onto the rocks. Sometimes there are enough of them that I hesitate to get close enough to refill it. Often as I do refill it, bees come out of nowhere and hover about waiting for me to finish. It works great -- water really does attract the bees. If you've ever noticed bees and moths racing to get the water droplets that stick to leaves while you're watering, you'll have been reminded how important water is to them.

Okay, last idea in this post -- flowering herbs. Probably my most popular plants, according to bees, have been my mints and things in the mint family like oregano and basil, and thyme and other herbs. Bees adore them. These herbs produce countless small flowers, generally over quite a few weeks if not months, are low maintenance and most are very heat- and sun-tolerant, and usually require little water or fertilizer. You can always just eat the leaves as usual, but I'd suggest leaving some herbs more or less alone for the bees, or letting them go to seed after a while if you have any room for them at all. A single oregano plant big enough to fill a square or two(more than a square may take more than a single season's growth) may give bees a tremendous number of flowers to feed on for months at a time.
Marc Iverson
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squash pollination problem Empty Thanx for all of the feedback

Post  jarity 8/7/2015, 10:04 am

These posts have been quite a learning experience! One thing i forgot to state is that my planter is on the 9th floor so i don't expect to see many bees and was concentrating on hand pollinating. But as everyone here says the absence of female flowers remain an unknown. However my main garden is 24 sq. ft from the community garden people so i can afford to wait and see.
thanx again for so much feed back.
jarity
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