The highs and lows of growing squash

Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Well, I have learned not to get too excited about growing squash -- at least not until I see an actual squash land on my dinner plate. You see, it all started out last month when I asked fellow bloggers for a tutorial on squash pollination. I only have one squash plant, and I was concerned that it wouldn't produce a squash if it didn't have another plant with which to pollinate.

Several helpful commenters chimed in and I learned that squash produces male and female flowers on the same plant. The males usually open first to attract bees. When the female flowers open, you can pick a male flower and make it "kiss" the females -- thus inducing pollination. The female flowers are easy to identify because they have a miniature replica of a squash located at their base.

So I went back to the garden a few days later to see what kind of flowers I had on my squash plant. I was surprised -- overjoyed even! -- to find that there was already a beautiful little yellow squash waiting for me. My first squash! I was so happy! I didn't even have to intervene!

But hold on. Not so fast.

See the flower bud that's attached to the end of my "squash" in the photo above? One commenter, Diana, broke the bad news to me. She said that if the flower hadn't opened yet and wasn't fertilized, then that "squash" -- actually an ovary -- would fall off.

So back to the garden I went. And sure enough, my baby squash was turning all mushy. A few days later, I had nothing left but this dry, shriveled up, dead ovary carcass.

I was so disappointed. It was one of those moments in the gardening experience when I say to myself: You know, X vegetable is only $.99 a pound at the supermarket, so why even bother?

So now... there's another new "squash" forming on the plant. It's gotten bigger than the previous one and it looks very promising. The blossom has dropped and the squash seems to be holding on just fine. But I didn't even take a picture of it because I don't want to jinx it. I will only believe it when I see it on my dinner plate.


Blogger Kalyn Denny said...

Hey thanks, I always wondered why the first few squash each year shrivel up like that. Wish I could send you some, I just picked about 10 and there are more in the

9:04 PM  
Blogger Petunia's Gardener said...

Hope your squash gets lucky! I'm a little worried about my pumpkins as they are in a new area without as much bee activity. Thinking about doing some match making myself. Isn't it something... hoping your vegetables are making friends & getting lucky out in the garden?

1:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christa - Yeah, it definitely is a frustrating situation to see those babies shrivel up. I'm interested to see how your squash goes at this point in the year -- I'm having almost no production from our two remaining squash plants, and have been curious about whether or not I've got any chance of getting any veggies off them before the end of the season.

The Inadvertent Gardener

12:32 PM  
Blogger El said...

Get out there with a Q-tip and do what the bees aren't! Take the swab and get some pollen from the male flowers and then put it on the female flowers. I have such problems with squash bugs that I have had to grow squash plants under a fabric row cover to avoid them...problem is of course the good bugs get shut out with the bad.

good luck.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Loretta said...

The same thing is happening to some of my lemon cucumbers. All these little ovarys that havn't been fertlized! I also sometimes wonder why expend so much energy, blood, sweat is expended into something that doesn't always yield so heavily. But then I always remind my self sometimes it's about the experience and it makes you a better gardener. But it's pretty crazy, huh, that for the most part we are pretty lucky that we don't have to rely on our crops for sustenance? Like if your squash crop fails you can just go to Trader Joes and pick up a frozen pizza.

But bummer, man, about the little squashlings! Good luck!

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for this post. I was trying to rule out blossom end rot on my squash (I'm pretty sure that's not my problem, though). I thought I didn't have a problem with pollination, as the squash beds are full of hard-at-work bees. It didn't occur to me that the female flowers have to be open to be pollinated...duh. Maybe this is a problem that corrects itself as the season progresses??

El-I had a terrible problem with vine borers last year--wood ash sprinkled liberally on the base of the vines seems to be working GREAT for me so far this year (knock on wood).

4:33 PM  

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