Thursday, June 28, 2012

infertile squash

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.


  1. Interesting how all of that works huh? I remember teaching the fifth graders about how some plants multiply...and they one knew there was a "gender" among certain flowers.

    I have given up on gardening myself. I just don't have the time to start a proper garden.

  2. Even in the squash world the men always bloom first.


  3. I hadn't thought of this situation this way, but it does make a startling parallel.
    I grow pumpkins where I live, but I got too busy this summer and didn’t get anything planted so my tilled patch of land is totally barren.

  4. A friend of mine grows squash and pollinates the females herself using a qtip, then fries up the male squash blossoms in batter, stuffed with cheese. Yum! Our squash never made it either, but that probably had something to do with the face that I never remembered to water it. Whoops.

  5. Your ambition kills me every time. You grow squash. There are just some people in this world that are so superior to you that you just have to sit back with your mouth open and say...ah hem, wow...

    I think you'll find a way to help these squashies out. Gosh, I can't even spell this vegetable.

    Okay, what do you make out of them? I bet your squash recipe is fabulous beyond measure.

    So you know, I do have to green squash in my fridge right now. It's not that I don't appreciate them...but I could never grow them.

    I am horrible at gardening.

    I like potted gardening though!

    Only problem is we only have shade in our little 3 X 5 patch outside our apartment.

  6. Because we are growing yellow squash, too, my husband had occasion to read your post. First, he loves the previous comments saying, "These women are hilarious!" Second, he impulsively concluded you were over-researching squash. He must have been intrigued however since he went outside to our garden and concluded that yes, there are male and female flowers. He said he's never noticed before because his garden just grows. Congratulations!!!! You outwitted the master gardener. For what it's worth, he suggests more water and extra fertilizer on your female plants. :)