Marking your growing vegetables for pollenating

chloe456January 14, 2014

Hi well my pumpkin and water melon are doing great there trellising well and have plenty of male flowers, however now I'm getting female flowers but not all are open yet ,so I'm just wondering if anyone has any tips on how to keep track of the female flowers so when they open I can pollenate them and not lose them in all the trellis, which has happened once before.

(I'm hand pollenating , due to the fact the year before I didn't and got no crop what so ever.)

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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

If there aren't any bees around then hand pollinating is the way.

Well, I don't understand by you "keeping track of them"> You will have to observe. From the size of female flower, you can tell roughly that it is going to open the next day. Then you get up early the next day, find a male flower, pick it, bring it to the female flower and hand pollinate it. If you have shortage of male flower, you can use a Q-tip to transfer the pollens to more than one female flower.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 4:12AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Unless you are trying to save pure seed you don't need to worry about keeping track of what you pollinated. To save pure seed you have to tape the flower shut right before it would open, then open, hand pollinate and mark which one it was.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 6:17PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I don't understand why you think they have to be "marked" in some fashion? Can you clarify. I mean once they are pollinated it's done. Each morning you check for open blooms and pollinate them. Next morning more will be open.

But even more curious is where are you that you'd have either blooming now anyway? Are you growing these indoors? Do you have multiple plants growing? If not that is often the reason for poor pollination.


    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 7:10PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

chloe, are you trying to mark the female buds you see so you can find them a day or two later when the blossoms open, so you can pollinate them?

Here's my first suggestion. Exactly how you do it would depend how thick the vines are growing. I've only grown tomatoes, cucumbers, and small gourds on a trellis, so I'm not sure how close together your blossoms might be.

You need something lightweight that you can tie or twist to the stem. So ... strips of aluminum foil, folded over a couple of times. Or strips of cloth. Or pieces of string or yarn. Whatever you use should be a color that contrasts with the leaves.

Attach the pieces to near where the blossoms are: in this case, you're going to attach the pieces to the foliage in front of the blossoms. Twist/tie a marker to a leaf stem adjacent to the leaf, then have the marker hang down in front of the leaf.

Second method: place a lightweight bamboo garden stake in front of the blossom's location and put a bit of masking tape at the height of the blossom. Pull aside the leaves in that area, and if a blossom's open, the bright color will catch your eye.

Third method (if you're not noticing the blossoms with method 2): tie a long piece of string or yarn to the stem near each blossom, then attach the other end of the string/yarn somewhere outside the vine where it's not going to blow away or get lost. Each morning, follow each piece of string/yarn to its blossom to see if the blossom is open. Once you pollinate it, remove that string/yarn.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 11:15PM
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Sorry late follow up, thanks for the ideas , I'm currently in australia. I had not grow pumpkin before and people has told me that I have to mark them I didn't really understand so I thought I better ask. :)

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 11:26PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

I had a feeling you were in the Southern hemisphere, not much blooming in the U.S. right now. It surprises me that you need to hand pollinate, though. Squash, in particular, is very attractive to bees.

As others above have mentioned, normally the only reason to hand pollinate squash or melons is to save pure seed. You can identify the flowers that will open the next day by going out just before sunset; the buds that are next to open will be large, and show color. Because I am saving pure seed, I use tissue paper to cover those buds.. the separated single layer of a 2-ply paper towel works well for this. It allows sufficient air that the flower will not "cook" when the sun comes up, and is light enough not the break the stem of a squash blossom. Spun polyester row cover works too... but I prefer to use paper tissue, because it is more opaque to any bees that might want to force their way in.

I grow my squash trailing, and as I seal off a blossom, I place a survey marker next to the flower (one color for male, one for female). This makes the flowers easy to locate in the morning. For trellised vines, tie a piece of bright ribbon next to the flowers that will be hand pollinated... again, two different colors makes the job easier in the morning. If you are not saving seed, just mark the locations, but leave the flowers uncovered.

It boggles my mind that you have no natural pollinators??? I wonder if perhaps you are getting insect pollination, but the blossoms are aborting due to stressful conditions. Australia can be pretty warm right now, depending upon where you are.

This post was edited by zeedman on Sat, Jan 18, 14 at 3:40

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 1:57AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Colored flagging tape.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 6:28AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

people has told me that I have to mark them

I would assume they meant IF you wanted to save the seeds from them. That is the only reason to mark them.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2014 at 12:32PM
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