(With a title like that, I think my blog stats are about to get really interesting…)
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been fretting over the state of my pumpkin plants — they send off tons of blossoms, but no pumpkins developed. This was true for all three varieties I planted. Meanwhile, my other squash plants are going gangbusters.
I even started trying to hand pollinate the plants each morning, dutifully swabbing the inside of each open blossom with a Q-Tip to try and transfer pollen from one to another. Still nothing. What was worse, all of the blossoms were falling off.
I blamed slugs. I blamed squirrels. I blamed stink bugs. A reader blamed vine borers. A neighbor blamed rabbits. I blamed myself for doing something wrong.
Then I finally Googled the problem and got a lesson in sex education.
Turns out, there are male flowers and female flowers. To get a pumpkin, the pollen from a male flower needs to access a female flower. Most of the blossoms on my plants have been male flowers, which usually fall off 2-3 days after blooming. My efforts at hand pollination, therefore, have been pretty useless.
Here’s the good news: Now that I know what to look for, I’ve noticed a few female flowers blooming. WARNING: The following photos depict cucurbita girl parts and boy parts. If you’re into pumpkin porn, you can click on the photos for larger versions.
Female flowers have what looks like a tiny little fruit already developing at the base of the blossom. The flower at left actually did get pollinated.
The bad news: some critter found it delectable and chewed a nice hole into it.
Male flowers don’t have the bulb at the base of the blossom.
There’s another way to tell them apart though and that’s to look at the stamen inside each flower.
Here’s the best news: There’s another pumpkin plant clear across my property in the compost pile next to my garage. I haven’t watered it. Vehicles driver over many of its vines, which encroach into the alley. But it’s huge — wrapping around one corner of my garage. And it has several baby pumpkins growing on it.
This plant resulted from a squirrel-nibbled pumpkin that I threw into the compost pile last winter. I’m going to fence it in with chicken wire to try and keep critters out (and to keep the town from removing my compost pile on trash day, like they did once last year).