Friday, June 9, 2017

Squash family on our menu

3 different species of bee work a
Seminole pumpkin flower.

The Squash family

There are quite a few important crops in this family (Curcubitaceae), from cucumbers and melons to zucchinis and pumpkins, all members of this family have separate male and female flowers which need to be pollinated--most female flowers need to be visited by pollinators (mostly bees and wasps) 7 to 10 times before a fruit forms. The female flower sits atop a small preformed fruit, while the male flower is borne on a long stalk. If a fruit does not grow after the flower fades and it turns yellow, this usually means that it was not fertilized.

Most squash vines put out several to many male flowers first before the first female flower is formed. My guess is that this strategy attracts pollinators to the area before it spends the extra energy to form a female flower.

Up until 2 weeks ago, it's been a dry spring, so I've irrigated the squashes every other day at the minimum to keep them from stressing due to wilting. This has been hand irrigation with rain barrel water, in addition to the once a week landscape-wide irrigation. The reason for this is that squashes need a consistent and generous amount of water to produce the fastest growth of the fruit.

For more detailed information on growing the squash family crops see our book "Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida."