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Why didn't my squash plant have any squashes?

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Ann Kelly Ann Kelly | 12:14 UK time, Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Aileen asks "Last year, I tried growing squash but failed dismally. The plants grew abundantly but only tiny squash grew and then died. Where did I go wrong? It was so disappointing."

Female squash flower opened to show the stigmaWell, this is a problem that affected a lot of people who grew the Dig In veg last year.  This year we're not giving away squash seeds, but some people may have the same problem with courgettes.  So here's my explanation of what I think is the cause.

Squashes, and their relatives like courgettes and cucumbers, usually need to have their flowers pollinated in order to grow fruit. 

 

If that doesn't happen, they'll start to grow, but quickly abort and die - which is what it sounds like has happened here.

This is most likely to happen in a greenhouse where the insects that would normally do the pollination can't get in, or sometimes if you only have one squash plant so there's not enough flowers out at the right time.

But there is a solution - if the bees and other insects won't do it, you'll have to step in yourseA male squash flowerlf.

Squashes, courgettes and the like have male and female flowers, and pollen needs to get from the males to the females for fruit to result.  So first you have to identify one of each sex of flower.  Both sexes will grow on the one plant.A female squash flower

Males have long stringy stems (left) while females have a bulge (right)- which will develop into a fruit if pollinated, at the base.

 Once you've identified your flowers, take a small paintbrush and swirl it round in the depths of the male flower until you can see specks of yellow pollen on it - pull the petals off if it makes it easier.  Then use the brush to dust the pollen onto the middle of the female flower.  Or you can just pull the male flower off, remove the petals, and rub it across the three pronged yellow thing in the middle of the female flower - called the stigma (shown in the picture at the top of the page). You'll get bigger fruit if you use lots of male flowers to one female.

Hopefully this will help you get plently of squashes on your plants this year!

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