Sex and the Single Zucchini!

IMG_5844We’ve all heard people complain about too much zucchini! But, I also get questions about why some plants have a ton of flowers and no squash. It’s actually quite simple once you understand the sex life of zucchinis!

Look carefully at the following photo and you’ll see two kinds of flowers. The one on the right has a tall, thin stem with no “bump” -a mini squash- at the base of the flower. That’s the male flower. Its good for pollination only and produces nothing on it’s own. (Oh, don’t go there…we’re talking about plants here:)  The flower on the left has a “bump” at the base of the flower which is the new zucchini ready to be pollinated so it can grow big and end up in your zucchini bread.

IMG_3576arrowscroppedSo if your plant has all the right parts why don’t you always get a ton of produce? There are up to 15 males to 1 female flower early in the season.  Later, when there are more female, and therefore fruit bearing flowers, a number of things must happen to fertilize them. Warm, sunny, calm days are perfect for pollinators to do their work. Cold, rainy, or foggy days are not as good and we have our fair share of some of those in June and even July here in Northern California. The female flowers are only open for l day so there’s a small  window there for fertilization. The bees have to be buzzing around at the right time and do their thing!

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If all else fails you can help out by using a small paint brush to take pollen from the male flower and then dust it on the female flower’s center part.

IMG_5848IMG_5844All this sounds ridiculous to those who have the perfect growing situation and are overwhelmed and leaving giant zucchini on their neighbors door step. But, for some with less ideal conditions these problems do exist….believe it or not!  After all this romantic talk let’s close with a little zucchini kiss:

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Happy Gardening!

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