Hand pollination of Squash

macmexJune 2, 2008

I thought IÂd take time to do a pictorial guide on hand pollination of squash. When I first wanted to hand pollinate, back in 1984, I remember frantically trying to get information and not knowing exactly where to turn. I had just joined the Seed Savers Exchange and heard about hand pollination but didnÂt know how to do it. I remember calling a couple of SSE members. Everyone was very helpful. But I had a difficult time picturing what I was told. Imagine how pleased I was when I received an SSE publication with full illustration of hand pollination!

That first year I didnÂt manage a successful hand pollination. But once I saw this technique illustrated I never had a problem. HereÂs some help for anyone else who might be wondering how to do it.

I always go out the afternoon beforehand and tape shut the flowers due to open the following morning. The main challenge with this is to recognize those flowers, as a prematurely taped flower will simply abort. The general rule I follow is that I can tape flowers after 2:30 PM up until dark.

Most varieties "yellow up" the day before. A few varieties hardly "yellow up" until the night before. But once I get to know a variety it isn't difficult to recognize the ones I need to tape shut. Notice in the above picture that there are both mature male and a female blossoms as well as some immature blossoms of both sexes. If you accidentally tape a flower not ready to open, just remove the tape in the morning. It will probably be okay.

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macmex

Next I tape shut at least one male and one female blossom, due to open the next morning. If you can use more than one male flower thatâÂÂs great.

I prefer to use masking tape, about 1 3/4 ". When I tape the flower, in preparation for hand pollination, I try to tape it shut a little closer to the tip of the flower, so I can remove it (and possibly a bit of the petals when I do) and still have plenty of material to work with when I reseal the flower after hand pollination. When I reseal it, if there is any doubt about the integrity of the flower (as in having any rips in it), I use extra masking tape to cover that part of the flower, always folding it around the flower (forming a cone shape with it) with care not to damage what remains. I never let the tape stick to the immature fruit as well as the flower, as I believe this might provoke an abortion of the fruit.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 11:57AM
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macmex

The following morning I usually go out at dawn. I believe I read somewhere that you can do this as late as 10:00 AM, but I always do my squash pollinations at first light.
I pick a male flower and pull off the tape, petals and all, leaving just a stem and the stamen (male part of the flower) covered with mature pollen. Notice in the above picture how I use a convenient squash leaf to set the stamen while I work on the female flower. (Notice how I can set down the prepared male flower, with petals removed, on a handy "leaf shelf."

After preparing the stamen, I unseal the female flower. Usually I do this by pulling the tape straight off the end of the flower. Then I use the stamen, attached to the stem, like a paint brush to coat the pistol, of the previously sealed female blossom.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 12:02PM
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macmex

After this I reseal the female blossom using fresh masking tape. Note: If you have a healthy population of bees, you may have to work quickly and stay alert to wave them off as they try to get into your blossoms. A bee can cause pollen contamination by getting into either the male or female blossom.


HereâÂÂs the finished hand pollination. It is important to remember that not all immature fruit will mature, not even under the best of conditions. So, itâÂÂs best to do a number of hand pollinations and not trust that one will do. YouâÂÂll know that a hand pollination took when you see the immature squash, on the end of the female flower, start growing.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 12:05PM
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macmex

DonâÂÂt trust your memory that youâÂÂll remember which fruit are hand pollinated and which are not. As the vines continue to grow the location of fruit will actually seem to change! In reality they arenâÂÂt moving. But your landmarks (vines and leaves) are!

I used to tie strings or twist ties around the stems of hand pollinated fruit. But then, in transit from the garden, they would sometimes fall off, causing me to lose the fruit of my labors (pun intended). If there is the slightest doubt in my mind about whether a given squash fruit is hand pollinated I assume it is not. Especially when sharing seeds with others, it is a bad thing to distribute crossed up seed. Instead, when I make my rounds, to prepare more hand pollinations, a day or two afterward, I scratch a shallow mark into the skin of those fruit which still have tape on their blossoms, but which have begun to grow. Generally I donâÂÂt mark at the time of hand pollination, for fear of causing the fruit to abort. But once it begins to grow I mark it. Most of the time I mark fruit with a P for âÂÂpure,â or an X for âÂÂcross.â (I sometimes do make intentional crosses.) Additional symbols or letters can be added. But itâÂÂs important to keep notes so as not to forget what you meant!

HereâÂÂs a maturing fruit of Warsaw Round, a selection I did in the 90âÂÂs. Notice how it is marked. This squash was from a hill adjacent to a hill of Warsaw Buff Pie Pumpkin, which is very similar. So I marked it more clearly to avoid confusion. The letters will grow with the squash.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 12:08PM
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macmex

For flavor and storage itâÂÂs important to let squash reach full maturity before picking. ItâÂÂs even more important if you intend to save seed. Apparently, even after maturity, the seed in a ripe squash will continue to store reserves for several weeks to a month. So, to get the very best seed, itâÂÂs suggested that one leave it in the squash for about a month before extracting it.

Once you cut open a squash with pure seed try to scoop the seed out without damaging it. I either use my hands, or a large spoon, scraping the hard solid flesh behind the seeds. Then, using my hands, I squeeze the seed out of the pulp and onto some newspaper to dry. Seed is ready to store when you can snap an individual seed in half, cleanly and easily. DonâÂÂt try to store seed which isnâÂÂt fully dry.

Properly prepared squash seed will be good for at least five years, if stored in a cool dry place, probably longer. If frozen in a sealed jar it will last at least a quarter of a century (probably more)!

One more note: if you simply lack pollinators, but don't care about seed purity, you could use this technique, minus the masking tape, and produce a crop of squash.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 12:11PM
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weirdtrev

Absolutely perfect description of hand pollination. Perfect timing too, I imagine it will only be a couple weeks until the pollination questions start pouring in. I do exactly what you do minus taping the flowers because I don't worry about pure seeds. I also mark the squashes in a different way, I just tie a tag around the squash noting the pollination date any anything else I want to write.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 11:33PM
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growsveges(8)

Just wanted to say thanks; this was just what I was looking for! I'm hand pollinating all my zukes because I've got them covered to prevent the SVB from getting to them. I have about a 50% success rate, so was looking for some techniques to improve. I don't always catch the female flowers when they've opened, so sometimes I pollinate just before or after. I'll need to make more of a point of getting to them first thing.
thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2008 at 12:43PM
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macmex

This is a very useful technique. For instance one can use it to produce their own seed. In 2005, when we moved to Oklahoma, I barely had time to do a garden. I did, however, plant a zucchini, hoping for seed. It made seed. I only did one hand pollination. And I carried that "baseball bat" cross country to Oklahoma, only opening it for seed a few months later. But with that I got years worth of seed! I've shared it with a good many people. With zucchini one should be aware that once the plant has started to set seed in one single squash it is likely to stop production.

It can be fun to make some deliberate crosses and experiment with the results.

Also, one can maintain a rare variety indefinitely, through hand pollination, even if living where others garden (and produce foreign pollin). One of those squash, in the pictures above, is Warsaw Buff Pie Pumpkin, an heirloom from Northern Indiana, which I picked up in 1984. Since that time it was only carried briefly by one seed company, and available, sometimes, through the Seed Savers Exchange. But I keep it going and have shared it with others. Hand pollination was crucial, some years, when there were other squash of that species, nearby.

George

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 3:32PM
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tcstoehr

Nice pictorial demo. I'd just like to reiterate what was said above, that this procedure is only necessary when you are saving seed and trying to prevent cross pollination. If you are just interested in setting fruits, you don't have to bother with the taping part. Just grab the male flowers and dab them around as shown.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 11:21AM
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darrelltx

If I used this method of cross pollination and dusted the female flower with male flowers from a dozen other varieties would the ripe squash/pumpkin contain seeds of a dozen different crosses inside?

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 10:37PM
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macmex

Yes it would.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2008 at 6:21AM
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macmex

I was thinking about that, and it occurred to me that, for best results, if you wanted all those crosses in one hand pollination, you would probably do best to "harvest" the pollen, mix it in a small plastic cup, and then apply it with a Q tip or some other such brush. Otherwise the first one or two that you apply would probably be represented more in the seed.

Just a thought.

George

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 6:45AM
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kelly1982ann

Do you leave the tape on the female forever or take it off later on? Are you also able to use this technique to avoid cross pollination of other plants such as broccoli and cauliflower, different types of melons, onions, etc.? Next year will be my first time growing A LOT of vegetables and I'm worried about cross pollination since I want to harvest the seeds.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 6:31PM
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macmex

One leaves the tape on. In a couple of days the petals will wither and fall off with the tape. This technique will work for other cucurbits (watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, gourds, etc.) It is more challenging when the flowers are smaller. Also, for instance, melons and watermelons mature their pollen later in the morning than do squash. So, you want to do those hand pollinations a little later in the morning. I do squash at first dawn until about 9:30 AM.

I imagine this technique will work for almost any fairly large flowered plant. However, for things like broccoli, I'd recommend either caging with real fine mesh, or else growing them in isolation.

Here's a link to a good book which covers the different crops.

I've been saving seed since the 80s. Let me give you a tip. Start small and work up as you learn. This will make for satisfaction instead of frustration. Start saving seed on a couple things and gradually work up as able. Beans, lettuce and tomatoes are among the easiest. Squash isn't too hard. Most cole crops are biennial, which means you get seed the year after you sow the seed. Broccoli is the exception. It's ready the same year.

Hope this helps!

George

Here is a link that might be useful: Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 7:26AM
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kelly1982ann

Thanks for the info. I imagine I will start slow, I have to get used to growing new things first. It's fascinating to learn all this stuff.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 3:45PM
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kelly1982ann

I have one more question for you if that's ok. I've run across a couple places that warn about inbreeding depression. (I think it's mentioned in the book you linked me to also). I've read that it's a common issue with corn and the suggestion is to plant 100-200 plants. Obviously being just a home gardener, I won't be planting 100 of anything. I was wondering this: Say the first year I plant maybe 5-10 corn plants, save the seed from those, the next year I use half the seed I saved from those plants and half seed that I purchased. Would that avoid the inbreeding problem? Kinda like rotating the seed so they don't continuously breed with eachother.
Also, do you know what other plants are extremely sensitive to this problem?
Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 5:11PM
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macmex

Kelly,

I suppose it could be done. But you should remember that besides saving seed, you also want to eat some produce. Let me make a few suggestions:

1)If your space is really limited, consider crops which make more intensive use of that space. In my opinion corn is not one of those crops. Beans, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, soy, carrots, and onions are all crops which can produce a lot in little space.

2) If you really want to grow and save seed from corn, consider:
a. Crowding the corn, say, planting rows only 8" apart and doing a decent sized block of corn. I fit over 200 plants into about 15X4' last year. It was a challenge to weed. But the corn produced fine. I used abundant, well rotted manure and double dug the plot.

b. Cooperating with a couple other garden friends, by all growing the same variety and mixing your seed at the end of the season. Then, once mixed, you split it among you again.

Corn is the main crop which shows a lot of inbreeding depression. But I do know that with onions, and probably most of the crucifers (cabbage family) and you need to save seed from AT LEAST six plants.

I've saved seed from just one or two squash plants, in series, for as long as 10 years and never seen the slightest hint of inbreeding depression. The same is true of tomatoes, though I generally try for 4 to 6 plants of each variety I maintain.

George

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 12:43PM
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kelly1982ann

I do have a lot of space (5 acres), I never thought to plant too much of 1 vegetable since the garden would only be feeding 2-3 people. I guess it's probably better to have too much than too little. thanks for all your help!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 3:22PM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)

macmex,

THANKS!!!

I just posted a request for info on saving cucumber seeds. I was very frustrated that all of the GW links were nonfunctioning. Did not think to check squash or other cousins of cucumber.

I am visual learner and your photos made for an A+ grade in this class for me.

Thanks, thanks, thanks!!

DL

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 3:18PM
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macmex

You are welcome. I believe that cucumber pollen is viable somewhat later in the day than that of squash. You'll probably have to experiment a bit to get that down. But come to think of it, I see bees working my cucumbers by mid morning. Otherwise, apart from size, it should be about the same for cucumbers.

George

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 3:52PM
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angelady777 (was angelady on GW) - Zone 6(6)

I just wanted to stop in and say thank you very much for this info. There is very little info available with pictures and explanations like you've given. It's somewhat easy, yet VERY confusing if you're doing it right for a newbie and this thread helped me tremendously. THANKS!

~Angela

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 4:27PM
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macmex

Angela, I'm very glad that this helped you. There are a lot of things which, though not so hard, require visual aids! When one knows how to hand pollinate squash they can produce LOTS of their own seed and even dabble in breeding.

George

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 4:43PM
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timcad(5)

I also would like to thank you for this post. I have one pumpkin vine on which no female blossoms were pollinated. Many flowers didnÂt even open. I didnÂt use the tape as IÂm just interested in setting fruit. I saw the latest blossom had opened this morning. While looking for a good male flower to use, I noticed another female blossom open at the base end of the vine. I hand pollinated them both. I also saw two new females on the vine. With luck IÂll have some for Thanksgiving. I donÂt think theyÂd be ripe by Halloween.

Thanks again for the pics. Not sure IÂd of tried this otherwise.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2008 at 10:40PM
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macmex

Let's hope for a late frost!
I have a couple of immature squash, out there, which I'm hoping will mature before frost.

Glad this thread is helpful!

George

    Bookmark   September 29, 2008 at 12:26PM
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dirtdiggin(8b NW WA)

Hi George,

Thank you so much for this info. I've been contemplating making little bug screen bags for the blossoms 'cause the full isolation cage would have to be huge for some of the squash plants...wow you saved me a tremendous amount of time!

I have about 15 different varieties of squash and most are cucurbita pepo and will cross :/ hehe got a bunch from angelady :)(thank you again) so I can now feel confident about planting a full (lawn is being turned under lol) HUGE garden! Yeah!!!! I get to have pure seed next year :) Can't wait!

We are working toward a community garden in the area for about 20 - 35 families. Not quite sure how it will go as most are not even to the start of the learning stage (they seem scared to get into it lol). But this will be amazing. I'm sure I have my work cut out for me with helping others, but what a treat to help them learn how to be self sufficient. We are on an island about 2 miles off the main land with no stores.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 12:37PM
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macmex

Dirtdiggin, I'd simply use wide masking tape, as pictured above. Over 24 years ago I tried to make bags, using mesh. They didn't work as well as simply taping the flower petals themselves.

Which coast are you "off of?" Do you have squash vine borers? If not... blessed are you!

George

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 1:55PM
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dirtdiggin(8b NW WA)

West Coast and no squash vine borers. We have beautiful luck with squash. Just never have kept the seed due to cross pollination. Now I can yeah!!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 5:58PM
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macmex

I imagine that for you, with no borer problem, the sky's the limit. If I were in your shoes I'd be trying some of those nice c. maximas, super nice squash which just don't cut it here in Oklahoma.

Here's a link to Sandhill Preservation Center's squash listings.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sandhill Squash & Pumpkins

    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 10:55AM
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dirtdiggin(8b NW WA)

Oh I'm planting hubbards this year! I LOVE hubbard squash and can't wait to try out Nantinkis seed (bless her heart) but again, I have about 4 different maximas lol. So this is really exciting! The only thing that we really have to be concerned about is too much moisture early in the season. We do get a lot of rain, but so far we've never lost a plant from it. Some young squash have been known to damp off...could have been lack of fertilization, but I don't think so. Our bees are in such abundance here, everything gets pollinated at least twice. Most are wild bees...bumbles, wild mountain honey bees and a stray honey bee every so often.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 9:40PM
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david52_gw

This is great stuff, thanks. One question - I'd read, some time ago, that to best preserve a squash species that several 'crosses' between plants of the same species was the way to go - ie pollen from one plant fertilizing another plant, with some recommended number of plants being a minimum, and the more, the merrier.

Do you have any /thoughts comments on that?

    Bookmark   December 5, 2008 at 11:35PM
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macmex

David, when you say "species," do you really mean to say "variety/" For example, "Green Hubbard" is a variety. The species for "Green Hubbard" is c. maxima. "Pink Banana Squash" is another variety which also belongs to the c. maxima species. These two, being of the same species, can cross. Until you say otherwise I'll assume you were referring to "variety."

I've heard some people say that one should use pollen from a number of different plants and try to save seed from a number of different fruit, in order to maintain vitality. But I don't really believe it. I have hand pollinated, male to female flowers on the same vine for over a decade before, and found no ill effects on the resulting offspring.

Now, to maintain genetic DIVERSITY, that's another thing. Inbreeding will greatly narrow the variability within a given strain. So there is some benefit in doing as you say. But it is not absolutely necessary.

George

    Bookmark   December 6, 2008 at 1:52AM
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david52_gw

Sorry, George, my bad - I did mean 'variety', not species. So the article I was reading was talking about 'diversity' within a variety, maintaining the viability of the strain.

Anyway, thats good to know that you can work with a single vine and get consistent results. My interest is more in growing my own seed, not so much for sale, so even if I blow it, I can always go buy some more sometime.

I think maintaining a variety is a bit more complex than we often realize, an example would be the numerous strains of the variety 'Brandywine' tomato.

I ran across this re Chili: "....Paul Bosland, professor of horticulture and director of the Chile Pepper Institute, said researchers created the new varieties because the old Jim Big and 6-4 varieties had "run out," losing their signature flavor after many growing seasons.
"Over the years they lost their identity. They're not true to type anymore. The chile the farmers were growing had a great look and disease resistance, but no taste," Bosland said. "In New Mexico, you have to have chile that tastes good." snip -

Here is a link that might be useful: Chili issues

    Bookmark   December 6, 2008 at 6:41PM
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macmex

My guess is that Big Jim ran out because there had been some crossing, over the years, and selection had only been done on the basis of appearance, not flavor. Commercial growers, even seed producers, probably don't often think to taste fruit from plants used for seed saving.

George

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 6:43AM
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kandm(8b coastal alabama)

Nice post, thank you.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 9:08AM
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nathanlaughs(5)

This is excellent, thanks so much for taking the time to write this out. As said before, not many people have taken the time to post pictures and such online.

I do have a few questions, however. What is meant when you say "mature pollen"? Does this mean the pollen from the flowers as soon as it opens? Why is it important to hand pollinate theses flowers at a certain time in the day? Lastly, when you cross-pollinate flower pollen from different species, will it effect the taste/color/form of the fruit?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2009 at 2:13PM
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macmex

Nathan, pollen matures in the flower. If one uses a male flower for a pollen source, and it is even a couple of hours too early, it is possible that the pollen won't be ready. This is usually quite notable, as it simply won't be powdery. It will appear that there is none.

Squash and pumpkin pollen is ready when the sun comes up. I'm not sure how long it last in the heat of the day. But my impression is that hand pollenations after noon are unlikely to function. This is why it is important to hand pollinate at a certain time of day.

If you hand pollinate between species, generally speaking, the seed will either not form, or else it will be sterile. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. But I'm not current on what they are. Crosses between varieties (different kinds of squash, but of the same species) absolutely has no effect on the quality of the fruit. That is completely a matter of the genetics of the female parent.

It is commonly held that there are four main squash species.

c. pepo - includes: Jack O Lantern type pumpkins, zucchini, delectica, acorn & some small ornamental gourds.

c. maxima - includes: Turk's Turban, Hubbard, most of the giant pumpkins like Atlantic Giant, Buttercup and many others.

c. argyosperma (formerly known as c. mixta) - includes most of the cushaws.

c. moschata - (my favorite) includes: all of the butternuts, Tahitian Melon squashes, Choctaw & Seminole pumpkins and a number of high quality Japanese squash.

I have never seen a argyosperma/moschata cross. But I've heard of it. I believe I've heard of a maxima/moschata cross, which was sterile. Other crosses may be possible, but generally they have to be artificially induced.

In application, this means that if I only grow one of these species, and I don't have any neighbors, closer than 1/4 mile, growing squash, then I don't have to hand pollinate. I'll have pure seed! This has always worked for me. But hand pollination is a safe way to be sure. If I lived in the suburbs, I'd probably always hand pollinate to avoid problems.

Hope this helps!

George

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 9:47AM
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iam3killerbs(7 NC Sandhills)

What a useful thread this is.

Perhaps I should practice hand-pollinating my summer squash so I'll be good at it when the time comes to pollinate my Watauga Pie Pumpkins?

    Bookmark   June 26, 2009 at 1:12PM
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jarvinen

So just to clarify... I'm in a pumpkin growing contest with some friends in northern Michigan. We all have Big Max pumpkins and the flowers are starting to open. Our growing season isn't the longest and we will probably end up with many pumpkins that are still growing when it's time for the "weigh-in" in late October, but we'll have fun growing them anyway.

So in our case, taping after hand-pollinating isn't required because we're only interested in the fruit and not the seeds? And cross-pollination with the other varieties of pumpkins in our garden will not affect the size potential of the Big Max?

Thank you. And any advice or links for growing big pumpkins would be appreciated. I'm planning on winning this contest!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 11:05AM
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macmex

You are correct Jarvinen, hand pollination is only necessary to produce pure seed. Crossing with other varieties has no affect, whatsoever, on the size or quality of the fruit which a given plant produces. The difference would only show up if you planted the crossed seed.

George

    Bookmark   June 30, 2009 at 3:01PM
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cyrus_gardner(8)

Very useful and informative, for those who want to grow their own seeds. I am not that organized. Except for cucumbers. This year I had 3 different varieties next to each other and I have let one good cuke to mature for seeds.
Now I am thinking what if it is cross-polinated?
I will plant some of its seed for the second round and will find out the answer.

But I do hand pollinate my night-flowering gourds such as bottle gourds. These gourds, with white flowers open after sun goes down and stay open till dawn. Bwcause there aren't many insects that time to pollinate them, one has to do it himself. Otherwise you may not get any gourds. Also because of this, you will not get any cross-polinations and no need for taping, since you are the only INSECT (lol, intelligent one though).
This past june I went out of town for 2 weeks and when I came back there was no single addition to the number of my bottle gourds but the ornamentals had produced many.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 3:46AM
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macmex

Your cucumber seed will certainly be crossed. But it will be crossed only with cucumbers, unless, perhaps you are growing an Armenian cucumber, in which case, it wouldn't cross with other cucumbers, but rather with cantaloupes.

Very interesting about your lack of night time pollinators: here in Tahlequah, we have an abundance of them!

George

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 7:24AM
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momesqny

Hi - your clinic on hand pollination was greatly appreciated. My squash plants are beautiful - I should already be playing "doorbell ditch" and leaving bags of squash on my neighbor's porches. However here on Long Island it rained for all of June. I believe the constant rain may have interfered with bee pollination. Does this make sense to you? Thanks

    Bookmark   July 11, 2009 at 9:29AM
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macmex

Yes, though I doubt you could get enough rain to deter the bees. More likely, you have a shortage of pollinators. Your area of the country was very hard hit by a number of honey bee plagues, starting in the 90s. Then, on top of it, I know that some townships spray for gypsy moth, and... don't seem to care about bees and bee keepers.

Also, you have had exceptionally cool weather this year. Most likely your plants are just slow to getting around to produce. I bet they will shape up very soon.

George (Formerly of Colts Neck, NJ & one time resident of Jackson, NJ)

    Bookmark   July 12, 2009 at 7:23AM
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sazji(8bNW Turkey)

Thanks for that writeup, and all your attention to the later questions as well. Are all the squash in your pictures Warsaw Round? How would you describe them? I'm having lots of fun with winter squash here as we have neither squash bugs nor borers as far as I know and I have a Rouge Vif d'Etampes that is threatening to engulf the neighborhood...

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 2:53PM
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macmex

Actually, all the photos, except the one specifically labeled are of Scarchuks Supreme, which is a variety of acorn squash.

Here's a link to a post I did on Warsaw Round.

You are blessed not to have those pests! Wow! Without pests I can imagine how one of your plants might engulf the neighborhood!

George

Here is a link that might be useful: Warsaw Round

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 4:33PM
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galina

Thank you for this great pictorial demo of how to save pure squash seeds, George. Whenever the question crops up, I send people to this page. Everybody seems to understand it so easily.

There are a few variations that apply here in cool climate England. Because we don't get the hot temperatures, it is not quite so critical when I hand pollinate. I generally do it sometime in the morning, but afternoon works too. Moschata squashes are the most difficult to get right here and I pollinate (with suitable, different male flowers) two days in a row. I find that slightly older pollen still works, if the difference is only a day in maturity of male and female. As I said, this is because our climate is cool and plant development is so much slower as a consequence. But it probably also applies to northern US and Canadian gardeners.

This year we had to go away for a few days and I had a squash with matched male and female flowers, but both would have been ready when we were away. Both were already large buds, but not a trace of yellow yet. They would have opened on our first day away. Rather than lose the opportunity, I picked the male, stripped the petals, and placed it over the pistil inside the female flower, then tied it in place, so that developing pollen would fall into the right place. I was lucky and it worked just fine with a nicely bulging fruit on our return. It is worth a try if others reading this are in the same situation.

And I would like to add a note of caution: I sent some of my handpollinated c maxima seeds to a friend and she had a crossed plant amongst the pure-breeding plants. I was a bit upset, because I had gone through the handpollinating process with care and I have been doing it successfully for years. My friend sent me photos and I could detect typical characteristics from another c maxima I was growing (and handpollinating) the same year. It is very likely that I handpollinated both maximas on the same day, in fact. That set me thinking - it is possible that a pollen grain or two was still lodged on my fingers when I pollinated the second maxima squash, which gave my friend a rogue plant. Now I wash my hands between pollinating two squashes of the same species to prevent that from happening again.

The methods of tying up the flowers differ from gardener to gardener. Anything from blossom bags, tape, garden string, rubber bands to clothes pegs. I use string or clothes pegs here. Clothes pegs are nice because they are easier to spot, but only appropriate for strong stemmed flowers.

Thank you again for taking the time for this excellent post.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 8:47AM
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macmex

Galina,

You make a most important point about the difference in climate. Years ago we lived in a high cool rain forest environment, in a town called Tlatlauquitepec, Puebla, Mexico. I imagine that there were some similarities between the climate there and where you live. C. moschatas had to be coaxed along, and were not grown by the locals. The native squash, was called Calabaza Castilla (like so many others in Mexico) but it was a c. pepo, and exhibited tremendous vitality and resistance to extremes in humidity and coolness.

Temperatures would definitely affect what a person can and cannot do, as you so aptly demonstrated in the post above. Here in Tahlequah daytime temperatures exceeded 100 degrees F., almost every day, for nine weeks this summer! Pollen dies by noon or 1:00 PM in such conditions. But I have heard of refrigerating pollen and using it for a couple of days...

Also, the method for closing flower petals would be affected by humidity and temperature. In your climate, I suppose the petals don't dry down so quickly. Here they wilt by the afternoon and often develop holes, even in my taped flowers. I go back in the evening to inspect the taped flowers, and if they have developed a hole, I remove the tape and treat it as a crossed fruit.

I had a particularly bad year in 2006, which was the first year for me to hand pollinate in this climate. I'm not sure, exactly, what went wrong. Though now, I often tape the flowers shut with several lengths of tape, essentially re-building the flower where it might break open. Additionally, I've adopted the philosophy "If it isn't RIGHT, it's WRONG." In other words, if in doubt, treat it as crossed.

Thanks for your input. This is important for those who live in different climates.

George

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 12:16PM
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carrielisenbe

This is my first garden in this area and I am having trouble with my squashes not growing more than two inches long. You described exactly what was happening so I guess they are not getting pollinated. I haven't noticed any bees in my garden (somewhat of a good thing with my bee-phobia:) which explains everything. I've got several different vegetables growing so will I need to hand pollinate EVERYTHING? Thank you so much for your information. It has been a huge help!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 3:23PM
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macmex

Carrie,

I don't know where you live and garden. But I doubt that you lack all pollinators. At any rate tomatoes,peppers, beans and other legumes are pretty much self pollinating. All they really need is a slight breeze to move the plants. Moths, flies and other insects can pollinate some crops. The ones you might need to hand pollinate would be things like squash, melons, cucumbers and gourds.

George

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 12:43PM
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carrielisenbe

George,
Thank you for your help. We live in south Texas close to Houston. Do you have any ideas to help attract more pollinators? I tried working with my cucumbers this morning but there are so many blooms and the flowers are so small I'd rather leave that up to the insects:)
Carrie

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 8:11AM
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macmex

Well, here's a link to a Google search on Mason bees. Perhaps you can make a home for them, or even, purchase some.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mason bees

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 10:22AM
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macmex

Here's another link.
I do know that buckwheat would attract many insects.

George

Here is a link that might be useful: plants which attract pollinators

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 10:23AM
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guavalane

Hi George,

Thank you so much for the vast information you're sharing. I feel lucky to have found the post by chance. If the info you shared is included in FAQ section of the forum, if there is one, it will greatly help others to locate it in the future.

Penny

    Bookmark   June 25, 2010 at 3:28PM
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chefgumby(7)

bumpety bump bump bump

Would this same information hold true for watermelons?

thanks everyone,
Dale

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 12:01AM
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macmex

Penny, I have no idea how to get something into the FAQs. The only time I tried to communicate with someone who actually "runs" GW, I was unsuccessful.

Dale, I believe that this info is indeed, essentially applicable to watermelon. However: 1)Watermelon flowers are smaller and therefore a bit more challenging to work with, and 2) I believe that watermelon pollen matures somewhat later in the morning than that of squash. You would have to experiment with timing until you found that the pollen was fluffy and ready for use.

Maybe someone will drop in who has actual experience doing watermelon hand pollinations.

George

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 8:24AM
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mrs.b_in_wy(5a WY)

bumping - referencing this thread in discussion elsewhere

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 1:03PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Thanks for this posting.

What if my winter squash (kabocha) is aborting before the fruit is 1" and the female flower never gets a chance to grow or get close to yellow/orange?

Only 1 fruit set early in the season, after that, all new fruit was aborted before they got close to the flowers opening- i mean they were very green when aborted. It's been hotter than usual- in the 90's for at least 2 weeks and I've read that could be an issue. I'm just hoping there's something I can do.

We have plenty of bees and male flowers. I also have bacterial wilt from that damn cucumber beetle. Maybe that's it.

Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 12:31PM
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macmex

My guess is that either the heat is the cause, in which case the plant will likely set fruit when temps begin to cool down, or else for some reason the plant is too weak to support more fruit. Wish I could help more.

George

    Bookmark   August 5, 2011 at 2:11PM
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stac5455

Hi, I just stumbled upon this thread (and this forum) even though I have been on this website daily for the last couple years learning new things. Thank you for this great description on pollination. My question is, how do you know if you have enough pollen on the pistil? I am not sure when enough is enough. Does it have to be completely covered in pollen? Just reading up for 2012 season already.
Thanks again,
Stacy

    Bookmark   December 4, 2011 at 5:44PM
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macmex

There is usually enough pollen, though whenever I am able, I use at least two me flowers. This insures that the female receives plenty of pollen. Remember, insects. normally do the pollination, and they don't leave globs of pollen, but rather trace amounts

Glad you found this thread. I only just noticed that you had posted.

George

    Bookmark   December 8, 2011 at 3:11PM
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DavidTrees

Thanks for a great post that was posted a little while back but is still, and, may be even more relevant now days after the latest (attempted) exploits of monsanto here in Europe.

Can I clarify please...

So you're saying from a seed saving perspective, that if I pollinate and keep seeds from the same genus/species, I am still keeping the variety pure...???

You Wrote...."David, when you say "species," do you really mean to say "variety/" For example, "Green Hubbard" is a variety. The species for "Green Hubbard" is c. maxima. "Pink Banana Squash" is another variety which also belongs to the c. maxima species. These two, being of the same species, can cross. Until you say otherwise I'll assume you were referring to "variety." "...

So, as long as the two or three or four varieties I grow on my land are either C.Maxima or C.pepo or C.Agyrosperma / mixta or C. Moschata then I am not actually cross breeding... So that means I only need to worry about bees/bugs from outside of place tainting the purity? I would still use the tape or pegs to ensure we are pure.

Also did I understand it right that if I allow & even facilitate a cross variety pollination I might actually be helping to keep the variety more vital??

Ironically one of the varieties I want to plant to grow seed for seed saving and for harvest too is the Pink Banana Squash.

Likewise if I want to save an heirloom variety or two or three I just need to choose ones from the same species in that growing year, to keep them a pure seed for seed bank saving purposes.

All my seed saving books are still in Australia. We are heading back in October this year but i am researching what I will grow for the first two years on our return to develop my seed bank again.

Is there a book you know of that lists all the varieties / species of pumpkins/squash?

Thanks in advance for your reply.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2013 at 6:44PM
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macmex

David,

Your post is quite extensive. If I didn't catch something in my response, feel free to let me know.

If you have the necessary isolation distance, that neighbors' plantings won't contaminate your crop, and if you plant only one variety of each species, then, generally, you can count on your seed being pure. I have heard of a rare interspecies cross (c. moschata to c. maxima, if I recall). But if there is adequate pollen for a given species, it will normally not cross with another. If there is any doubt, then simply hand pollinate. I try to get pollen from a couple of donor plants, just to keep the genetics a bit broader, within the variety. But that is probably not necessary, just a nice thing to do.

Within a given species there can be many varieties. Varieties freely cross. Species do not. So, if you want to keep a variety pure, then you need to isolate it from other varieties of the same species, or...hand pollinate. Crossing varieties might give you hybrid vigor, and, if you just want to keep those genes around, you could cross varieties. The genes will still be there, just jumbled up. But keep in mind, it takes a good sized population to maintain those genes in a crossed (some call this "landrace") situation. Also, if you should want to regain one of those original varieties, from out of such a seed pool, you might spend many years selecting for it. It is probably easier to simply keep the varieties pure and maintain them.

Here are some on-line resources for you. They list species and give guidance for seed saving.

The Adaptive Seeds Guide looks excellent, though I have not read it from cover to cover What a great service to publish this for free!

http://www.adaptiveseeds.com/content/seed-saving-guide

HereâÂÂs another online guide, which is also quite good:

http://howtosaveseeds.com/index.php

Sandhill Preservation Center lists species with variety.
http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds also lists variety with species.
http://www.rareseeds.com/store/vegetables/

George

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 11:01AM
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macmex

Here are two books which could be helpful. Depp's book, though dealing with plant breeding, gives much good info which is useful for seed saving.

Seed to Seed : Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for the Vegetable Gardener by Suzanne Ashworth (2002, Paperback, Revised)

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's & Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding & Seed Saving by Carol Deppe (2000, Paperback): The Gardener's & Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding & Seed Saving

George

    Bookmark   May 10, 2013 at 1:24PM
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ccabal(7)

Another related question... This year I am having many female flowers come up first, so I don't have much pollen available. Is it possible to pollinate C. Maxima with C. Pepo pollen? I dont care about saving seeds but was wonder if that would produce fruit?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2013 at 4:01PM
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macmex

It probably won't. However, your squash plants should produce male flowers pretty soon. I can't recall why, but it appears that environmental factors sometime cause the plants to produce all female flowers for a while. The norm, in my experience, is just the reverse.

George

    Bookmark   May 12, 2013 at 7:22AM
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ophelia93(8a)

I've been hand pollinating my butternut squash and jack-o-lantern pumpkin for years, but this year I have loads of ready females and in the last few days males to but with what seems to be no pollen on them. I've called the numbers on the seed packs but no one seems to be that knowledgible at these seed places. I'm wondering if it has to do with all the wet cloudy weather we've been having. The males are mostly facing skyward on stems in the middle of the plants, Are they getting so drenched with rain that by the time they open the pollen is washed away or too wet and sticky to be useful? Last night was dry and today was sunny, but the one male that opened had very little pasty yellow pollen. So I'm wondering if there is a way to keep the males dry to see if that makes a difference, because more rain is coming.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 1:33PM
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tcstoehr

No pollen... are you sure? The grains are microscopic, but even so you should be able so see them as a fine powder. Perhaps bees are busy doing their jobs and have scraped all the pollen away before you arrive. If so, more than likely they have spread it to the female flowers. If you are totally curious, you can bag up one of the male flowers with a sandwich bag and a twistie to exclude any bees, then check it out for yourself. Oddly enough, there are a few reports, myself included, of Butternuts setting fine fruits in the complete absence of male flowers. Are your female flowers setting fruits?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2013 at 2:48PM
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