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Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match....

You're About to be Redirected to the New Home of Ground Control to Major Mom: Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match....

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match....

I have this incredibly HUGE pumpkin plant taking over my backyard...

From 2009 07 14 Pumpkin Pollination

And that's just the part of the one plant that's come through the fence and is actually bleeding into the front yard!

Anyway, I've grown pumpkins in the past and the best I traditionally do is most 2...pumpkins! This time around, I'm going to try my hand at (drumroll please!) hand-pollination!

I'd read that those enormous pumpkins you see winning blue ribbons at county fairs are typically hand-pollinated. And those who are super-serious will even use plastic bags to ensure the male and female flowers keep as much of their pollen on hand as possible!

How does this work? Well, for those who didn't realize, plants in the squash family -- to include cucumbers and pumpkins -- have both "male" and "female" flowers on the same plant. Male flowers are typically bigger and are on a longer stem, while female flowers will have a bulbous piece just behind the flower...which is what eventually becomes the squash itself when pollinated. On a pumpkin, the first you'd see male flowers -- LOTS of male flowers -- and then after several weeks (at least 4 weeks in my case), you will see female flowers appear. I've had less than 6 so far.

Here's a male flower. Note the thinner stem and the stamen in the center:
From 2009 07 14 Pumpkin Pollination
From 2009 07 14 Pumpkin Pollination

And the female flower. The bulb behind the flower and the multiple "stigma"...with an opening in the center for? You guessed it -- the male flower's pollen!
From 2009 07 14 Pumpkin Pollination
From 2009 07 14 Pumpkin Pollination
From 2009 07 14 Pumpkin Pollination

So here's the deal. You have to do this early enough in the morning that the flowers are all still open. Most pumpkin flowers will shrivel up by mid-day, especially on warm days. You pick a male flower off its stem, and pluck off the petals, exposing its "manliness":
From 2009 07 14 Pumpkin Pollination

Then you rub the male and female innards together...this is rated NC-17, sorry!
From 2009 07 14 Pumpkin Pollination

Now...some folks who have tried that have reported that you'll see evidence of success in as few as 12 hours -- the bulb will begin growing. In an unsuccessful pollination, the flower would fall off and the bulb will turn yellow and shrivel off the flower.

I'll check tomorrow morning for evidence of success/failure of today's pollination. There should be another flower ready to attempt tomorrow.

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At Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 12:28:00 PM CDT , Blogger Maryann Goldman said...

I didn't know this. Really cool write-up.

At Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 9:07:00 PM CDT , Blogger Christina said...

Wow! I learn something new everyday!

At Wednesday, July 15, 2009 at 8:30:00 AM CDT , Blogger Major Mom said...

Update: I didn't get a picture yet, but it looks like I'll have a pumpkin growing from the one I pollinated yesterday morning! I think the next female flower will be opening tomorrow morning...

At Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 12:23:00 AM CDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

how early are you supposed to go out?

At Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 4:10:00 PM CDT , Blogger Major Mom said...

I'd recommend going out before 10am. I was reading on some sites that if you're attempting a pure-bred pumpkin, you have cover up the buds with plastic and get out there REAL early to make sure a male from the same plant pollinates the female.

I'm not that particular -- I just want to make sure the female develops somehow. I did my 2nd pumpkin later in the day, and at 11am the flowers were shriveling up.

At Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 5:54:00 PM CDT , Blogger Dilith said...

oh ok, on my pumpkin plant it looks like theres no females theres only males lol.

i dont know whats wrong.

At Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 6:14:00 PM CDT , Blogger Major Mom said...

Don't fret Dilith, there were dozens of male flowers before the first female showed up. I'm not sure what triggers female flowers to show up, or for them to even stay alive long enough for a flower to open (many die before the flower opens). I guess it'd be worth investigating....

I'm not sure if it depends on when the pumpkin was planted, ours was planted around May 1st, and I didn't see the first female flower until about July 10th. 60-70 days? Not sure if this is normal, I'm certainly no authority on pumpkin growing, it's just something I've decided to give a little more attention to this season.

Good luck to you!

At Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 6:20:00 PM CDT , Blogger Dilith said...


At Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 6:22:00 PM CDT , Blogger Major Mom said...

Here are some tips on how to get more female flowers: and and

Based on these, it sounds like we can get more female flowers by chopping off major vines at about the 10' point and forcing some side shoots. I'm starting to get that now, so I look forward to seeing how many females I get after that....I've about 60 more days before it'll be getting chilly here, so I hope that's enough time.


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