Hand-Pollinating Pumpkin Plants
PROBLEM: My pumpkins keep flowering and setting fruit, but the fruits (pumpkins) keep withering up when they are an inch or two long. I’ve tried putting wood under them, thinking they were rotting, but that hasn’t worked. Now I am wondering about soils, too much water, insects? Any suggestions?
LIKELY ANSWER: Do you have bees (pollinators)? Sounds like pollination failure. The symptoms are classic. You may need to get bees, or hand pollinates. Your pumpkins are not getting pollinated! The female blossoms are only good for a day or two before they wither. The fruit under the female blossom will start to turn color before it opens.
TECHNIQUE: Find a male blossom (no fruit under the blossom) that is about to open and at night put masking tape around the tip to seal it. Yes, you heard me correctly, masking tape! The male will be ready to open the next day if you’ve timed it right. The next morning, undo the tape, carefully remove the petals, and touch to pollinators to the female plant. The reason for putting the tape around the petals is to keep the pollen from blowing around or being spread to a non-squash plant by insects (this probably won’t happen in your case as if there were insect pollinating, I wouldn’t have to tell you this). Good luck.
TECHNIQUE: If you haven’t figured it out yet, I think your problem is lack of pollination. Even under the best circumstances, some fruit failure is inevitable. Are there bees floating around your flowers in the morning? There should be. If there are not, you can hand-pollinate. This is a simple process best done early in the morning. First, find a male flower that has freshly opened and pick it off the vine. The Male flowers are the ones that DO NOT have a small ball at the base of the flower. Male flowers usually concentrated near the base of the plant. Next, peel away the petals of the male flower to expose the center. Find a newly opened female flower. You guessed it, the ones with the little ball at the base that is the start of the pumpkin.
Commence to rub the male flower inside the female flower. Try to transfer as much pollen from the male flower onto ALL lobes of the center of the female flower. Some people use more than one prepared male flower to do the job. Don’t worry, the female flower should continue to emerge the entire season. Good luck.
Last Updated: Sat Apr 20 10:30:00PM CST 1996