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Hand Pollination of Vegetables

Use small paintbrush to transfer pollen from the male flower to the female flower. Here the female flower has a small undeveloped fruit at the stem end of the flower.
hand pollination
Hand pollination; a male flower stamen is rubbed against the female flower pistil transferring pollen.

Hand pollination is the manual transfer of pollen from the stamen of one plant to the pistil of another–that is from a male flower to a female flower.

Members of the Cucurbit family–squash, melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers–often have pollination problems because the male flowers commonly open days before the female flowers and so often drop before pollinators such as bees can transfer pollen from male to female flowers.

When female flowers are not pollinated, the fruit will never appear. The nascent fruits–bulging embryos–at the stem end of female flowers will shrivel and die if not pollinated.

If fruit is not forming on your Cucurbit family plants, you can help. Rub a small brush or cotton swab on the stamen of a male flower (it will be dusty with pollen) then rub the brush on the stigma of the female flower. 

Hand pollination
Use a small paintbrush to transfer pollen from the male flower to the female flower. Here the female flower has a small undeveloped fruit at the stem end of the flower.

Alternatively, you can remove the petals from a male flower and brush the stamen against the stigma of a female flower.

Which flower is male and which is female? Female flowers have a small bulge (a small immature flower) where the stem meets the flower. Male flowers are shorter than female flowers and often appear in clusters.

Also of interest:

Self-Pollinating Vegetables

How Vegetables are Pollinated

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6 Comments

    • Do not let the soil dry out; keep it just moist, not wet. Feed the plants with a dilute solution of fish emulsion every 10 days, or feed with a 5-10-10 fertilizer following the label directions.

    • Stunted corn husks and exposed ears are the results of environmental stress, a combination of severe stress before or during pollination that is then relieved in the initial weeks following pollination. The most common combination of conditions that results in this oddity is severe heat and drought stress that is then relieved by cooler temperatures and rainfall.
      This link may be of interest: https://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/news/timeless/EarHusks.html

    • Beans are ready for picking when the seeds inside the pod are just visible. Don’t wait too long. If you want to harvest dry beans, allow the pods to dry on the plant, then pick when the pods begin to burst.

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