How to Hand Pollinate Squash Flowers | Seed Saving
If you want to save seeds from your squash to replant next year, you will need to learn how to hand pollinate the flowers.
This includes winter squash:
- Pumpkins of all kinds
- Any and all kinds of winter squash
It includes summer squash:
- Yellow crookneck
- Pattypan, also called scallop
- Small decorative gourds
- Any and all kinds of summer squash
If you have ever had a volunteer squash vine pop up in your garden or compost pile and been mystified as to what it was, cross pollination is to blame. That odd-looking zucchini with stringy flesh might be a cross between a zucchini and a spaghetti squash – its possible!
When you take up seed saving, you will discover that some crops, beans, radishes, and lettuce to name two, are pretty straightforward.
Others require a little bit of know-how. So let’s dive in.
The supplies are simple:
- A roll of wide blue painter’s tape
- Brightly colored yarn: yellow, orange, red, purple, or blue
- Optional: put together a Garden Tool Basket
The night before
- Locate a female flower that is ready to open in the morning. The flower will be tightly closed with a yellow flush.
- Locate 2-5 male flowers of same variety that are ready to open in the morning
- Tape the flowers closed to exclude insects
ID male and female flowers
Male flowers are easy to spot. They consist of a slender, straight stem with a flower bud on top.
Female flowers carry a swelling, a tiny baby fruit (squash) just below the flower.
Tape flowers closed
Use a piece of blue painter’s tape to tape the female flower and corresponding male flowers closed.
In the morning
- Bring your Garden Tool Basket or at least the bright colored yarn, scissors, and tape with you to the garden
- Locate the flowers you taped shut last night
- Pick the male flowers (only) carefully off the plant with several inches of stem.
- Open the tape to watch the male flowers instantly bloom, remove the petals from each
- Remove tape from female flower. Quickly and gently rub the pollen from the male flowers over the stigma inside the female flower.
- Quickly tape the female flower closed.
- Tie a piece of colorful yarn around the stem of the female flower, leaving room for the stem to expand
Here is another example, with a gourd called Mayo Bule.
Pic 1 ~ Female flower ready to bloom the next day
Pic 2 ~ The female flower has opened and been pollinated
Pic 3 ~ About 4 weeks later, the gourd is developing
Pic 4 ~ Mature gourd in September, nearing harvest
Watch the progression of flower to full-size gourd growing on our garden teepee.
Note: these gourds are rare and unavailable commercially. I bought seeds in about 2005 and have been growing them and saving seeds since.
Resources for seed saving:
Get the book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth. This beginner-friendly book shares specific info on how to save seeds from all the common (and some uncommon) vegetable crops on a home garden scale.
Intermediate to advanced seed savers may want a copy of The Seed Garden by Shanyn Siegel and Lee Buttala.