Down on the Allotment

Matron grows vegetables and fruit in a Hampshire garden. I've been growing veggies since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Some traditional varieties and old favourites as well as new ideas. I share my garden with my allotment assistant Daisy the Labrador. On Twitter as @MatronsVeggies

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hand Pollinating Pumpkins

I am fortunate to have obtained some special pumpkin seeds in the past couple of years. Unfortunately pumpkins and squashes are famous for cross-pollinating with any other related family member. Unless I take special measures, if I save seed from any of my pumpkins and squashes this year, I will probably get strange, hybrid fruit next year. The female flower above is from my Rouge Vif D'Etamps pumpkin.
The slightly different shaped pumpkin is a female flower from my Queensland Blue pumpkin which Scarecrow sent me from Australia. (G'day mate - you're hammering us in the cricket eh?)
So this is what a male flower looks like. He has no little baby pumpkin behind his flower, and inside the flower he contains the pollen which is the male part of the plant (think sperm...)
So if you want to collect seed for next year you must obtain pollen from a male flower of the same speceis (preferably from another plant) and deposit it in the female flower. You must keep a vigilant watch on your pumpkin patch, staying there all day if necessary to do this at exactly the right time. Both male and female flowers have to be fully open, but they must not have been pollinated by any flying insects - who might bring in other pollen.
Now here comes the sex. Look away if you are squeamish, or if you are of a sensitive disposition! Take the petals off the male flower to expose the pollen at the base of the flower and make it easier to insert right down the bottom of the female flower and brush the pollen all over the female parts of the flower. You can do this with a very fine paintbrush if you can get the pollen on to that.
Now to avoid any further insect pollination of the female flower you must prevent insects from getting in there for a few days more. A fleece bag, pair of stockings lightly tied over the female flower will do.
Just to be sure you have the timing right (let's face it girls, they have problems don't they?) You may have to repeat the exercise tomorrow and the next day just to be sure that enough pollen has been produced. When fertilization has taken place, the female pumpkin will start to swell and the flower will drop off.


At 8:40 PM, Blogger Nutty Gnome said...

Phew that's some commitment to pollination that is!
I just hope you get the pumpkins after all that! :)

At 9:01 PM, Blogger miss m said...

Sex Ed at its best! Great images, very informative. Nice post.
My pumpkins haven’t started to flower but I can't wait to take a closer look. I’ve been examing my cucumber flowers. I have only a handful and they all looked male to me, but this morning I noticed my very first cucumber (Yay!). Tiny little thing. I guess they're harder to tell apart.

At 12:44 AM, Anonymous kitsapFG said...

Even without seed saving, I do some hand pollination because our bees have not been working the patch like they should and we lose too many fruits to non-pollination. It's easy to do using a soft makeup brush... just swipe the male flower... then daub the pollen into the female flower. Works very effectively to ensure good fruit set.

Nice pictorial step by step!

At 3:33 AM, Blogger Toni said...

Matron, thank you for your detailed instructions. Is hand pollinating necessary for all types of pumpkins?

This is my first year growing them.

At 4:59 AM, Blogger Matron said...

Toni - I only do this by hand because I want to be sure of saving a specific sort of seed. You don't have to do it for all pumpkins because the bees do it for you. You might like to give Mother nature a hand though, if you are short of bees or if the weather has been iffy.

At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Rachael said...

I saved seed last year from cross pollinated pumpkins, and am now getting some weird and wonderful fruits! Question is - what are they like to eat?? Or do you just have to try it and see? One of them certainly won't be any good for lantern-making, as it's marrow shaped.

At 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In grad school, my apartment-mate and I had a few large spaghetti-squash and pumpkin areas, and we pollinated them all by hand simply because we didn't trust the pollinators to do so - and we wanted pumpkins/squash! It was quite the process, so I do applaud you for doing this :-) We did it in a much harder way then you did - I wish we had had instructions, since we had no idea whatever what we were doing!

At 3:44 PM, Blogger Kath said...

I've never done this with pumpkins but I have cross pollinated peas and tomatoes (Not together - what a hybrid THAT would be!)- which are small and fiddly - and I've just reached that 'reading glasees' age! Maybe I should try sex with a pumpkin?

At 5:43 AM, Blogger Scarecrow said...

Hi Matron
Is there a cricket match on somewhere???? ;) ;) ;)

No one plays cricket in the middle of winter anyway!

Good luck with those pumpkins mate.
I hope you are speaking to them in a broad Aussie accent or they will have no idea what you are saying. lol

At 3:41 PM, Blogger Muhammad said...

you do have a great edible garden! Just found out your comment one of my simple kitchen garden blog. Aloha from Malaysia!:)


Post a Comment

<< Home