Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Does Your Zucchini Begin To Fruit And Then Wither? What You Need To Know.

Why did this zucchini begin to set and then wither?

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But Aren't Zucchini Prolific?

Some years I plant zucchini and have no problems at all and other years, like this one, I have had a rocky start. The problem is always the same. The plants look healthy, start fruiting and then when the baby zucchini is about 3 inches long, it withers and rots. 

This is extremely bothersome. Isn't zucchini the most prolific vegetable around? Not being able to grow zucchini can really effect ones self esteem! Why is this happening?

The Mating Game
It turns out that it takes a boy flower and a girl flower to make a zucchini. Who knew? I never paid much attention to it before. I just noticed pretty yellow flowers and a few weeks later I was plucking baseball bat-sized zucchini from my garden. 

Upon further examination I discovered that the flowers were indeed different.

It's a girl!
Girl flowers have small zucchini attached below them. 
It's a boy!
Boy flowers have a stem that connects to the plant with no fruit.

Before even realizing all this, I just waited to see if the plant would eventually grow normal zucchini. My patience paid off. Eventually the boy and girl flowers finally got together (I assume the bees helped out a bit since I'm not aware of any zucchini internet dating sites) and produced big, beautiful zucchini.

With a little patience, and eventual pollination, the plants began to yield big, beautiful zucchini!

While I was being patient, the male and female flowers developed and pollination occurred. There are some things you can do to help this along:
* Don't water overhead when the flowers are open. It could possibly wash away or dilute the pollen.
* Don't use insecticides as it will kill the bees and other insects who are responsible for pollinating your zucchini.
* Plant more than one zucchini. This will give the plants a better chance at getting properly pollinated.

If all else fails, you may have to resort to hand pollination. I have never tried this but according to some experienced gardeners, you can do it. Here's how:

The boy flower has a center stamen covered with pollen. This pollen must make it over to the girl.
The girl has a multi-segmented stigma in its center which needs to be pollinated in order to make fruit.

* Manually pollinate in the morning when the flowers open and they are fresh.
* Make sure the male stamen is mature with dusty, yellow specs of pollen.
* You may transfer this pollen to all sections of the female stigma in several ways. 
     (1) You may use a little artists brush or a cotton swab to transfer the pollen
     (2) or you can pick the male flower, remove its petals and use the stamen directly to transfer the pollen.
* When pollinating, make sure you get the male pollen on every segment of the female stigma. 
* You can use this male for fertilizing several female flowers.

OK, now you can sit back and start looking at zucchini recipes. You'll need them soon. Enjoy!


janet @ the taste space said...

I don't have any zucchini blossoms yet but this happened to my kabocha squash. Thank you for enlightening me.. I had noticed the difference in flowers with and without bulbs but didn't know why. I hope I don't have to do any artificial insemination.

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Good luck with the kabocha!

Jeane M. said...

Wow, aside from a yummy dish this post really helps me lot about garden foods. Honestly, its really interesting to know how zucchinis were formed, amazing! Got my eye on your blog now.