Hand Pollinate Squash and Pumpkins

How to Hand Pollinate Squash and Pumpkin Flowers for Seed Saving

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:

  • Acorn
  • Spaghetti
  • Butternut
  • Delicata
  • Hubbard
  • Turban
  • Kabocha
  • Cushaw
  • Pumpkins of all kinds
  • Any and all kinds of winter squash

It includes summer squash:

  • Zucchini
  • Yellow crookneck
  • Pattypan, also called scallop
  • Lebanese
  • Small decorative gourds
  • Luffa
  • 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.

Gather supplies

The supplies are simple:

  • A roll of 2-inch wide blue painter’s tape (As an Amazon Associate I earn commissions from qualifying purchases. This does not affect the price you pay. Thank you.)
  • Scissors
  • 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

Another example

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.

Read this post and watch my Grow and Endless Garden video at Chocolate Box Cottage to learn more about planning a garden with seed saving in mind.

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