By Penny Ossowski
The most commonly grown cucurbits in the home garden are zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, melons and gourds. At this time of year on radio, television and even at our BOGI meetings the following questions are often asked ‘how do I tell the difference between the male and female flowers?’ and ‘why are the baby fruit shrivelling and/or falling off?’
‘how do I tell the difference between the male and female flowers?’
· the female flower has a small fruit behind the flower
· male flowers have a spike (anther) in the centre of them while the female flower has a small fruit at the back of the flower and its centre (pistil) is like a small clenched fist.
‘why are the baby fruit shrivelling and/or falling off?’
· most likely the fruit has not been pollinated, sometimes it can be caused by a nutrient deficiency, pest attack or unsuitable weather
pollinating fruit/flowers (these flowers only open for a short time on one day)
· usually done by bees but sometimes there is a shortage of bees, the weather is wet or even too hot
· carry out by hand preferably in the early morning using a paintbrush or feather brush across the spike (anther) in the male flower and brush this across the centre (pistil) of the female flower or break the male flower from the plant, strip the petal from the flower and brush the centre (anther) across the centre (pistil) of the female flower
You will know within 2 or 3 days if the pollination was successful as the fruit will become noticeably larger.
Don’t despair if your plants start with all male flowers or all female flowers, this is normal. This is why you always have a few plants grouped together to increase the possibility of having male and female flowers at the same time.
Buy from a large range of cucumber seed online at Eden Seeds. For lovers of cucumbers the warmer months are a good time to add them to your garden.