It’s that time again, folks. The time of year I get out of bed just a little earlier than usual to provide a little insurance out in my garden. Yep – cotton swab in hand, before I get dressed for work I go outside and hand-pollinate my zucchini plants.
Why in the world would I do this, you might ask? In a world where bees are scarce, one never can be too careful. (Heaven forbid we don’t get enough zucchini!) Zucchini plants have both male and female flowers. To actually get any zucchini fruits, the pollen from the male flower must reach the female. Generally this is the bees’ job, but depending on where you live, you might or might not get enough visitors to do the deed.
So I’m going to show you how to hand-pollinate. Step one, get some cotton swabs. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Step two, find a male flower. You will know it’s a male from two characteristics: 1. their stems are tall and thin, with no ‘baby zucchini’ at the base of the flower, and 2. inside the flower is a single stamen, jutting out from the center. It looks like this:
Take your cotton swab, and brush it against the stamen. You will get what looks like yellow dust sticking to the cotton. Now, go to…
Step 3, find a female flower. Female flowers have baby zucchinis at their base, and there are several pistils inside the flower, in a ring. Take your pollinated cotton swab, and brush it against the pistils inside the female flower:
And that’s it! Your zucchini has been pollinated, and should begin to grow normally. A female flower that has not been pollinated will just shrivel up and wither away.
Finally, you may have noticed in my photos that my zucchini are round. At a Master Gardener meeting this spring, someone was giving away ’round zucchini’ seeds. I thought, ‘why not?’ Since then, I’ve been pondering why in this world do we need ’round zucchini’? I mean, so what? Who thought of that? Well, after giving it considerable thought, it became obvious to me:
We need round zucchini because they’re easier to juggle than regular zucchini!