Why I’m in Need of a Turkey Baster for My Squash

Last year one of the worst failures of my garden were my squash plants. Epic fail is really more like it. No matter what methods I tried, I couldn’t make my squash grow if my life had depended on it (and thank goodness it didn’t). Summer squash, zucchini, winter squash… it was all the same. The plants just shriveled up and died. I thought maybe I had squash vine borer, but I never found any of the nasty little suckers. I thought maybe I watered too much, too little, didn’t fertilize enough. All of those things seemed to have no bearing on whether or not the squash would grow. Finally I gave up for the season. I was destined not to have squash.

Finally, after reevaluating the layout of the garden I decided that my problem most certainly had to be the location of my squash. I tried growing it on the far western side and I was convinced that it probably received too much shade to thrive. So this year I ripped out my squash section box and started from scratch. I found new wonderful locations in the center of the garden to plant my squash. And guess what? It seems to be working…. almost.

This week I harvested my very first zucchini ever. It was beautiful and dark and I’m sure that it will be very tasty. And I grew it from nothing. I was thrilled. My yellow crookneck squash plant has taken off and is gorgeous and looks like it’s going to be producing a ton of little yellow crookneck squashes. My Seminole Winter Squash plant is vining up its trellis and I’m wondering if maybe it was a mistake not planting it near something much taller. So where are the problems you ask?

  1. Waltham Butternut Squash: EPIC fail. No idea. It never sprouted. I had beautiful looking seeds and not a single one sprouted. I am so crazy in love with butternut squash and it seems like I’m destined never to enjoy one from my garden.
  2. Spineless Beauty Zucchini: It is mysteriously wilting with no signs of squash vine borer. I’m mildly amused that of the 5 varieties of squashes that I planted, the one that’s a hybrid is failing to thrive. All of my heirloom varieties are quite happy.
  3. Yellow Crookneck Squash: Mysteriously the little baby squashes are shriveling up on the vine and dying.

I feel that there is very little I can do about the butternut squash and I think that I feel like the spineless beauty zucchini has just asserted my belief that heirloom varieties are far superior. However, the yellow crookneck squash had me puzzled and distraught. After a quick Google search I located what may be the potential problem. My squash doesn’t know how to have sex with itself; or rather, isn’t receiving the help that it needs from the birds and the bees — well, bees mainly.

My friend Christina wrote about her cucumber’s successful procreation. It was interesting, but it didn’t tell me what to do about my problem. Yes, I knew about male and female flowers and I seemed to have both. But it wasn’t until I read this article about hand pollination that I really started understanding the issue at hand (no pun intended).

Turns out, you can have tiny baby squash on your female flowers but if the male flowers don’t get their pollen over to the females to do their stuff the baby squash just abort. The bees are supposed to help out and spread around all the pollen to the female flowers. Apparently my bees are defective. So instead of letting nature take its course you can do something kind of like in vetro for your squash blossoms. Luckily the hand pollination article also gave a link to this nifty site that has a photo tutorial on how to execute the delicate procedure.

I’ll let you know if I end up being successful in my squash baby-making endeavors.

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