If you've grown squash, you probably know that they have great big, exuberantly yellow flowers. And if you're a nerdy gardener (or someone who always has a garden that's dying and can't understand why, like me), you may have learned that there are two kinds of flowers. There are male flowers and female flowers. They look pretty much the same. On any given plant, the male flowers bloom first. You can tell them apart because the male flowers grow on a long, thin stalk. The female flowers, by contrast, have a small but visible squash growing below the flower, between it and the main stem. Here is the great secret: the female flowers need to be pollinated by the male flowers before the female flowers fall off; otherwise the tiny starting-out squash will die. If the female flower is pollinated, the squash will grow.
The timing issue is a tricky one with just one plant, but if you have several plants, you will probably have male flowers open at the same time as female, and the bees will take care of the pollinating for you. In previous summers, I've killed off whole squash plants that had some fruit growing, so I know it does not take a good gardener to get to that stage. But this summer...
To date, I have had dozens of male flowers open - on a total of eight plants - but just one female flower. That flower was on a struggling, tiny plant. And the whole week it was open, there was not one male flower anywhere on any of the other plants - though there had been many the week before, and there were many the week after. So the flower fell off, and that little squash withered and died, several weeks ago.
Every day, now, I poke all the flowers and the flower buds, looking for a female flower I may have missed. There are none.
Clearly it is not MFI. But my squash are infertile. (Or possibly have gender identity issues.)
And I don't appreciate it.