Hand Pollinating Squash for Higher Yields and Seed Saving

Reader Contribution by Reader Contribution Benedict Vanheems
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Photo by Pixabay/MabelAmber

Hand pollinating squash may be necessary when poor weather conditions mean there aren’t many natural pollinators such as bees around, or if you’re growing under cover in a greenhouse or hoop house. It’s also an essential technique to know for squash seed saving.

How to Hand Pollinate Squash

First identify the male and female flowers on your squash plant. The male flowers have a straight stem behind the flower and a stamen inside, while the female flowers have a swelling behind the bloom (the immature fruit) and inside the bloom you’ll find the stigma.

Use a soft-bristled artist’s paintbrush to remove pollen from the stamen of a male flower – you’ll see the yellow pollen on the brush. Carefully brush the pollen onto the stigma of a female flower. And that’s it!

Another way is to detach the male flower from the plant, peel back the petals to expose the stamen, then carefully rub the pollen onto the stigma of a female flower.


Saving Squash Seed

Different squashes will cross-pollinate with each other, so to guarantee that seeds breed true you must prevent pollination by insects. You can then selectively hand-pollinate to insure the seeds produced are the same variety as the mother plant.

Isolate one or two flowers by enclosing it within a light, breathable fabric such as muslin and tie the fabric around the stem at the back. Once the flower has opened, remove the fabric and pollinate by hand. Replace the cover 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.

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