Giving Your Zucchini Plants A Nudge With Hand Pollination
July 11, 2018
If you’re growing zucchini in your garden this year, you best be armed with a plethora of recipes that call for the vegetable. Believe it or not, a single zucchini plant can produce up to 10 pounds of zucchini in one growing season. Yikes! I have four plants…that’s right, four. I have myself and a lack of research to blame for that.
Luckily, there are so many ways to eat it; from soups and stir-frys to grilling on the BBQ, zucchini bread, and even chocolate cake! Zucchini also freezes well for the winter if grated in advance. I personally love adding shredded zucchini to any kind of ground beef mixture I make. It’s a good way to cut down on beef and get more veggies into your diet. I better make room in the freezer!
It’s amazing how quickly zucchini plants start bearing fruit. Last week, we had a heat wave that lasted a week where I live. The “greenhouse effect” was super beneficial to my gardens; all of a sudden my zucchini, pepper, and bean plants tripled in size. Within days, big, beautiful blooms appeared on the zucchini plants, which meant the magic was about to happen! Sure enough, a couple of days after that, my first two zucchini appeared.
Fun fact about zucchini plants: they actually have both male and female flowers, which also happen to be edible! Eaten raw, they’re crisp, fresh, and sweet-tasting. The female zucchini flowers have short stems and three parts called the pistil. For every female flower, there are usually about three male flowers. These are much larger than the females and have longer stems. Zucchinis depend heavily on bees to move the pollen from the male to female flowers. If the female flowers don’t receive enough pollen, the resulting zucchinis will likely be misshapen and may even shrivel and fall off.
I haven’t seen many bees in my gardens recently, and because the female flowers are only open for one day, I knew pollination had to happen quickly. Worried the bees would miss the window of opportunity, I decided to take matters into my own hands so that my zucchini crops thrive this summer.
The entire process was incredibly easy; all you need is a small paintbrush. Keep in mind that propagation has to happen first thing in the morning. All I did was dab some pollen from the male anther, which sits in the middle of the flower. The pollen rubs onto the brush very easily. Then, I carefully brushed the pollen onto the female stigma, which is inside the flower and is connected to the ovary. Sounds sexy, but I can assure you it’s not.
Don’t have a paintbrush lying around? No problem! You can also pollinate by taking the petals from the male flower and gently touching the male anther to the female stigma.
Beyond pollinating by hand, zucchini plants are actually incredibly low-maintenance. They grow well in most soils with very minimal care, and they’ll do well until the first frost kills them. You’ll get the best flavor if you pick your zucchini off the vine when it’s about 6 inches long. Keep in mind, the more you harvest, the more your plant will produce. If you find you’re inundated with zucchini and can’t possibly think of one more thing to make with it, then leave the squash on the vine to grow as big as possible. This should significantly slow your plant’s yield.
I have a feeling my four plants will be producing like crazy this summer, especially after giving them a nudge with pollination. Maybe it’s purely coincidence that within days of using the paintbrush technique I had two zucchinis appear, but I feel like it’s working already! Anyone who invites me over for dinner this summer will likely get a bottle of wine, and a basket of homegrown zucchini!