The Mechanics of Reproduction – Hand Pollinating Pumpkins

I was thinking of a range of different titles for this particular post – but then I thought of the disappointment that any number of 13 year boys would feel when they pulled up a site about gardening rather than what they intended to produce from their Google enquiry, so I decided on a sceintificish rather than salacious name.  Actually I do find that showing kids how to hand pollinate a pumpkin is quite a good way of explaining sex, or human reproduction without the ummming and errring I usually resort to when attempting to explain how babies are made.

500m2 in Sydney did a lovely piece on this a few weeks ago and while I tread very similar ground here I had the photos so I thought I would write on the topic anyway.  Besides I see no problem with cluttering up the internet with pumpkin related posts.

Why hand pollinate?

If you can see pumpkins forming on your plants but they are never reaching sizes greater than a golf or tennis ball (how large non-pollinated ones get depends on the variety) then one possibility is that they are not being pollinated.  Bees are great pollinators but if you are lacking bees or they are off fertilising elsewhere hand pollination is a great backup plan.

How to hand pollinate?

It is best to do this is the morning as the female flowers tend to close in the afternoon.

To hand pollinate you will need a male and a female flower.  Male flowers have long stalks and the female ones are the ones that you can see baby fruits forming behind.

Cut a male flower off the plant with a decent bit of stalk attatched.  You need to make sure the pollen is ready – to test if you very gently touch the stamen of the flower and pollen comes off on your hand then it is ready.

Remove the petals from the flower.  Try not to tip the flower upside down as you want to retain as much pollen as possible.

Place the stamen of the male flower inside the female flower touching as much of the stigma as possible.  You want to make sure all the different bits of the stigma get pollinated.

Cross your fingers and wait for pumpkins to form.

Note: If you are saving seed make sure you hand pollinate with a flower from the same kind of pumpkin (or indeed the same plant), if you are not worried about saving seeds you can use any male flower.

This entry was posted in Cucurbits, Pumpkin, Summer Planting and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to The Mechanics of Reproduction – Hand Pollinating Pumpkins

  1. Mark Willis says:

    Please Miss, how do worms reproduce? I’ve heard they are hermaphrodites. What does that mean? Heh, heh. 🙂

    • Liz says:

      Well Master Willis I’m not too sure but I do know that if I accidently cut them in two with my spade they should still survive. The same cannot be said for naughty little boys….hehehe

      • The story that if you cut a worm in two they will survive is a myth Liz. If the tail end is snipped off it make regrow but a worm cut in two will die I’m afraid.

        when worms reproduce they like slugs both become pregnant – now that is what I call equality!

        • Liz says:

          Is it really a myth? – oh no now I’m going to suffer never ending guilt over all those worms I’ve severed over the years….ah so they impregnate each other – nice idea….

  2. Trust Mark! I’ve had many funny moments visiting farms with a class of 11 year olds!

  3. Norma Chang says:

    Very detail and easy to comprehend tutorial. Lovely photos.

  4. Bee Girl says:

    Ha! I love this post! I’ve always seen this done with a paint brush. I’ve never thought about tearing the leaves off and just…ummm…rubbing the parts together (whoa)! It’s so simple that way 🙂

    • Liz says:

      Isn’t that funny – not sure why you’d want to use a paintbrush – I could draw all sorts of innuendo laden parallels but I’m far too sensible these days……

  5. L says:

    Thanks for the link. It turned out completely unnecessary for my golden nuggets, but I’ll be out there carefully pollinating my Japanese pumpkins because they seem to be struggling somewhat. Might also need to give my rock melons a little ‘assistance’.

    • Liz says:

      All my pumpkins are struggling this year – I actually think it might be that I’ve planted them in too shady a spot rather than a pollination issue though….

      • L says:

        Well if you’re going to plant something in that shady spot, I reckon you’ve made a good choice. Nothing else can walk to a better spot quite like a pumpkin!

        • Liz says:

          Ah so true….I seem to be growing less invasive ones this year though – they don’t seem to be creating quite the jungle they were last year….

  6. Hi Liz,
    Thank you once again for you comment on my new blog-it is so encouraging to get feedback and means I am now enthused to carry on!
    Your blog is really informative and I will indeed be following it now. It is so interesting hearing about gardens that are in a completely different part of the world. I didn’t get one pumpkin or squash last year but although I thought I had lots of pollinating insects perhaps I need to give them a ‘hand’…sorry for the pun…

    • Liz says:

      I’m not having a great deal of luck this year just yet either – they like sun and heat and mine haven’t had enough of either yet (or at least thats what I’m blaming at the moment…..)

  7. Barb Lamb says:

    My husband loves gramma pie , I have a gramma vine but no set fruit, now with your help, I should have gramma for pies.thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *