By Steve Borel
Members of the cucurbit family (cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and melons) produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Pollen must be transferred from the male to the female flower to obtain fruit set and development. The female cucurbit flower will have a small fruit at the base of the flower, the male will not. Pollen is transferred by bees, primarily honey bees.
Cucumber plantings generally produce male flowers first, but female flowers soon follow and set fruit. Zucchini and other squash varieties generally produce female flowers first and these will not mature because they are not fertilized. Since bees are necessary for pollination. Care should be taken if pesticides are needed. It is best to apply pesticides early in the evening when bee activity is very low.
A new twist you may run into. Plant breeders have developed “gynoecious” varieties that produce practically all female flowers. Each female flower is a potential fruit, and a more concentrated and earlier fruit set is obtained on gynoecious plants. Seed of a variety that produces both male and female flowers is mixed into the gynoecious seed pack by about 10 percent by the seed company. Doing so provides a source of pollen in the area. If you only have a few plants this may cause a pollination problem.
One last thought, don’t forget about your kids, or grandkids when it comes to gardening. I have noticed that the children participating in the school garden program or more willing to try a new vegetable if they grow it.
As always if you have a question you can contact me at the LSU AG Center office -WBR 336-2416 or Iberville 687-5155.