Article #3: Hand Pollination of Squash By Richard Grazzini
Excerpted from one of the Seed Savers Exchange catalogs.
This year I looked at about 150 different varieties of squash. A few were commercial hybrids or commercially-available standards, but most were heirlooms. On the other hand, some of the heirlooms were obviously crosses of two (or more) winter squashes, or winter squashes and summer squashes. If you grow squash for seed, PLEASE hand pollinate or grow only one variety of each species. You could wreck in one season what someone else has spent a lifetime of gardening to develop or preserve.
To keep varieties of squash from crossing and to make them come “true”, you must self pollinate them by hand. First, in the late afternoon or evening, find both male and female flowers that are unopened, but firm and yellow (the female flower has a small “baby” squash below it). These will open overnight unless they are sealed. Wilted yellow flowers have already opened—don’t use them. The flowers you will be using the next morning must be sealed so that bees don’t do your pollinating for you and bees are early risers! I usually seal with 1″ or 2″ masking tape placed around the top third of the flower. The next morning, wait until the dew dries and then pick the male flower. Remove the petals from both male and female flowers. Swab the pollen-covered part of the male flower on the stigma of the female flower. A glassine envelope should be ready to use (so the open flower is not exposed for too long). Cover the female flower after pollination with the glassine envelope and hold it in place with a wired label which closes the glassine envelope and labels the pollination all in one step. This will let you keep track of your hand-pollinated fruit all during the summer until harvest.
That’s it, except for removing the glassine envelope after three to five days. If the envelope is not removed, more often than not the fruit will rot. Always make as many hand pollinations as possible. A fruit may rot at any time and you can lose a variety because you quit one flower too soon. Self pollinating a naturally-crossed crop can lead to what’s called “inbreeding depression” or a loss in plant vigor. Luckily for those of us who like to work with squash, squash don’t seem to show any inbreeding depression. Watermelon and cantaloupe can be hand pollinated just like squash. The flowers are smaller and not as easy to manipulate. You may have to use tweezers, but it works.
- 1. Having Enough Food For Our World
- 2. The Quality Of Our Food Is Determined By The Quality Of Our Soil
- 3. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: How Vitamin and Mineral Content in Food Decreases Step-by-Step
- Article #2: Saving Open-Pollinated Seeds By Margaret Flynn
- Article #3: Hand Pollination of Squash
- Article #4: The Spirit Speaks
- Article #5: Origin of the World’s Basic Food Plants
- Article #6: You’ve Just Been Poisoned By Mike Benton