Q: I have problems growing cucumber, squash and watermelon. They won’t set fruit even though the plants appear healthy. What am I doing wrong?
A: More than likely this is the result of incomplete pollination. It’s quite common in the cucurbits, which include cucumbers, squash, cantaloupe and watermelon. Plants in the cucurbit family mostly have separate male and female flowers occurring on the same plant. The male flowers produce pollen which has to be moved, usually by bees, to the female flowers. Both the male and female flowers are yellow. But the female flower will be attached to the plant by what looks like an immature cucumber if its is a cucumber plant or an immature squash if it is a squash plant, etc. The male flower is attached to the plant by a thin greenish stem.
Incomplete pollination occurs when there is insufficient movement of pollen from the male blossoms to the female blossoms. In most cases, this means there were not enough bee visits and, as a consequence, not enough pollen delivered to fertilize enough of the seeds. This will result in the fruit either aborting or only developing partially around the seeds that did become fertilized. producing a malformed fruit.
In the absence of sufficient bees, you can try hand pollinating of a few plants. This can be done by transferring pollen from newly opened male flowers using a small brush. Then deposit the pollen on the stigmas, which is on a raised area in the middle of the open female cucurbit flower. More detailed information is available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs398.
If you have other problems with your vegetables, bring a fresh sample to our June plant clinic. You ma also bring in insects that are believed to be pests for identification and control recommendations. Lawn and landscape plant problems can be diagnosed as well. It’s important to bring a fresh sample that represents symptoms seen.
The plant clinic will be from 10am to 1pm Thursday in Fort Walton Beach at the Okaloosa County Extension building, 127 W. Hollywood Blvd.