Question from Karen:
I am having a problem with zucchini that appears to be healthy. The plants look robust and have plenty of little yellow flowers but they don’t turn into little zukes. Do you have any idea what I can. do ? I love zucchini and am disappointed.
Answer from Pat:
Your problem is most likely lack of pollination, but let’s discuss other possibilities first. Perhaps you failed to plant with the seasons, that is, you planted very late. Next year, if you live in Southern California, plant zucchini in March or April instead of waiting until August by which time most gardens are being burned up by heat. Another possibility is that you purchased one of the new genetically-modified hybrids that only produces male flowers to be used in cooking. Always read the label and/ or the seed package. (It is best to plant squash from seeds.)
Most likely, however, you have both male and female flowers, but the females are not being pollinated so the fruits are falling off. Many plants, such as melons and squash, create many male flowers first and then they create a few female ones. Even when squash is in the swing of bearing, the ratio of male to female flowers is usually about 15 to 1. Look closely at the flowers. The male flowers have a stem attached to the flower. The female flowers have a tiny bulge between the stem and the flower and that is the immature fruit. If you find tiny fruits beneath the female flowers but see that some have turned yellow, dried up, and fallen off then your problem is lack of pollination.
Squash flowers are most often pollinated by the common bumble bee that lives in the ground. No bumble bees, no squash! You either need to attract bumble bees to your garden or you will have to pollinate the blossoms yourself. To do this, go out in the garden early in the day and either use a small sable paint brush and make like a bee going from flower to flower, or again, early in the morning break off a male flower, take off its petals and then rub the center of the male blossom flower on the center of the female blossom. Here is one of my U-Tube videos which shows this process.
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