Sow There! Squash and how to be an expert pollen spreader, May 18, 2017

Zucchini flowers.
Zucchini flowers. Heather Hacking-Enterprise-Record

My bets are placed on crook-neck squash as my new garden darling. Last week I talked about pollinating the flowers by hand. As it turns out, I was only partially correct, and overly optimistic. I followed my own advice and the yellow wonder was on its way only to wither a few days later.

The University of California Master Gardner program has put together a lot of words about summer squash, One reason for withering baby squash is inadequate pollination.

I had to think about this. I transferred pollen from the male flower to the female flowers. Job done. How could that be inadequate?

I was thinking my squash was like a human. Humans only need one fertilized egg to make a baby. But squash, which is technically a fruit, has several “babies.” Multiple seeds will provide for the next generation of the plants.

I’m glad its early in the season because I have plenty of time to become a master hand-pollinator, or at least an adequate pollen spreader. Ideally, bees would do all of the work in my yard. I see bees all the time, but for some reason this lack of pollination takes place in my yard.

Readers can view detailed photos of male and female flowers, provided by the Missouri Botanical Garden,

One suggestion is to locate the male flower, which includes the pollen-covered anther. Clip the stem of the flower and strip off the flower petals. Now you have a “paintbrush” with a handle (the stem). Find the female flower, which is notably different because it has a bulbous ovary at the base of the flower. The good news is that the ratio of male flower vs. female flowers is 3:1. Female flowers are only ready for pollen for a single day.

Other tips to help bees do the job, don’t apply chemicals to the yard. Add bee-friendly flowers to the growing areas, especially borage. Don’t water from above when flowers are open; bees might think they see rain, and go somewhere else.


These observations and problems with flowers are signs of the change in seasons.

My friend Kara stopped by recently and I immediately put her to work. The best time to put up the sun shade for the picnic table is before the daytime high hits 100 degrees.

A sun shade is a two-person job and we managed to click three of the four posts into position. I’ll just hope the wobbly contraption will hold up if we have some brisk winds.

The shade structure also makes a great place for plants that are already looking tired from the sun. We think plants that are labeled “full shade,” can make it through the summer. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll be happy. The gardenias and anything in a terracotta pot will look pretty ratty if subjected to direct sun for 12 hours a day. If a plant starts to look tired, I’ll move it to an area that receives shade for at least part of the day.

To add to my outdoor ambiance, my sweet friend Ashiah gave me some solar dragonfly lights.

“I’ll hang them on the shade structure” I said, not realizing this thought would make me cry. Putting up the sunshade was something the Handsome Woodsman and I would have done together. We liked to sit on the patio in the evenings. He would play his guitar, I watered the potted plants. Often the Feline Unit would wander by, complaining that 30 minutes had passed since she last tasted wet food.

For some reason I have in my head that a year is the “proper” amount of time for grieving. Maybe I thought this was the amount of time to “properly” honor the memory of the person you loved. Others have said you need to go through all four season in order to make new memories. Now I’m realizing this “four seasons” is unavoidable, because each new season brings reminders of things that were once shared.

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