Yesterday I posted about the decline in bee populations, so I thought it would be a good idea to discuss one easy task you can do in case you are not getting many bees visiting your garden.
You will know real quick if bees are not coming around. Ever noticed a little tiny cucumber behind a flower on your cucumber vine, just to look again a couple days later and the little fruit has withered and died? This is from a lack in pollination, and pollination has to occur for the fruit to set and develop. This can be a common occurrence with cucumbers, squash, zucchini, pumpkins, and melons. These vegetables depend on bees, and other pollinators, for pollination. If you would like more information on how to attract bees to your garden, please read this article on Attracting Bees To The Vegetable Garden.
Male or Female?
Plants in these families have both male and female flowers. The female flowers have the little tiny fruit behind them, and the male flowers will not. In order for the female plant to produce fruit, it must receive pollen from the male flower.
How To Hand Pollinate The Female Cucumber Flower
First, identify male and female flowers on your cucumber vine. Gently pull a male flower from the vine by grasping it right where the petal stops at the vine. It should just pop right off. Try to leave the flower as intact as possible.
Use a pair of scissors and carefully snip the petals off the flower, until all you have left is the very center, or anthers. Do not touch the anthers – this is where the valuable pollen is located. Touching it could mistakenly wipe the pollen off. You don’t have to remove every little bit of petal, just remove the majority. The purpose is to make it a little easier for the male flower’s anther to come in contact with the female flower’s stigma.
Once most of the petals are removed, it’s time for the pollination. Take the middle of the male flower and gently rub it on the female flower’s middle. You can touch the two flower middles together, then do a slight twisting action. Just roll the male flower slowly back and forth between your thumb and index finger.
That should be enough to do the trick! You have now pollinated this female cucumber flower. This method will also work for squash, zucchini, pumpkins and melons.
If you would like to share your hand pollination techniques, feel free to do so in the comments section below. I’d love to hear them!