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Pollinating Plants: A Simple Guide

Posted Aug 08 2012 6:30am

I live in a region of the country where growing fruits and vegetables takes careful planning, most often starting seedlings under lights. The prospect of sowing the ground to plant seeds and water is minimal. A mid-spring move to a new city put a damper on growing an elaborate garden on my patio. Once we settled into our new home, I didn’t wait before planting seeds to nurture into delectable produce we can enjoy this fall.

In front of my home, I have a rock garden with a small planter space that was established by the prior owners. The space is perfect for 8-12 full-sized plants depending on the type. Knowing I had to battle grazing deer on the property, I was very selective of the types of plants I would grow. Deer are known to avoid certain melons and squash, prompting me to focus on Cantaloupe and both yellow and green fall harvest squashes. At each corner of the planter section, I placed a couple cantaloupe seeds to ensure there was ample room for vines to disperse across the rocks. Between the cantaloupe, I planted yellow squash on the East and West sides with green squash on the North and South sides. The planter is positioned well for full-light plants on the East side of the property.

Seedlings sprouting

As the plants began to sprout, I reduced the seedlings to one in each space. I have kept careful watch on the progress and growth to note any new blooms.

My squash plants have exploded!

Beneath the luscious, large leaves are bright yellow blooms. Those blooms require pollination to ensure squash is produced. Unfortunately, bees are considered a nuisance in this region and I’ve seen very few. Leaving this up to Mother Nature simply would not satisfy my desire to have delicious gourds to eat. By mimicking nature with a soft-tipped paint brush, I’m doing the work of bees in just a few minutes every single day.

Pollinating Brush

With blooms open wide, I take the brush and softly sweep against the pollen bearing male blooms and then in the fruit-bearing female blooms. The difference between the two types of blooms is easy to see upon examination. The female blooms will have a squash-looking base and the male blooms will not.

Bloom

After pollinating, the bloom begins to close and squash begins to grow.

Pollinated Female Bloom

The process of pollinating my squash plants is simple and is showing to be an effective means to ensure a quality harvest with an extremely small growing season.

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