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Learn how to hand pollinate your pumpkin flowers

By Edited Feb 4, 2014 0 0

In order to get orange pumpkins for Halloween, many people plant their pumpkin seeds in early June. By the time August roles around, your pumpkin vine should be growing pretty aggressively and you may have a selection of flowers beginning to open up.

If pollination of these flowers takes place, you may even notice a few pumpkins starting to grow along your vines. But what happens if you do not see any fruit developing? This is a frustrating situation and it can happen to anyone. Luckily, there are things you can do to help the pollination process around.

The first thing that you should understand is the difference between male and female flowers. That's right – your vine has both. There are several differences that you can use to identify the sex of each flower. For starters, you will see male flowers start to bloom well in advance of the female flowers. No point in a female flower blooming if a male is not around to pollinate it!

The second thing to look at is the location of the flower. Male flowers tend to grow on a long stem that grows away from the many pumpkin vine. The female flowers tend to grow relatively close to the vine.

Another great way to identify male and female pumpkin flowers is to take a look inside each flower. A male pumpkin flower will have a stamen in the middle that looks like a pointy cone. This stamen is also where the pollen is found. The female flower has a stigma and it looks like little balls in the center of the flower.

The last identification method is probably the easiest and most obvious. Directly under the base of the female bud is a lump. At first this lump is about the size of a pea, but as the bud grows and gets ready to open, this lump will be much larger and it will be hard to miss!

So now that you understand how to identify male and female pumpkin flowers, you can use this information to help you hand pollinate them. Watch the buds on your female flowers. The day before they open the bud will have a pale orange color. In the morning you should be prepared to pollinate the flower.

If your female flower has successfully opened, carefully pick one of the male flowers that just opened. Pumpkin vines are pretty thorny so it is a great idea to wear thick gloves during this process. Once you have retrieved the male pumpkin flower, pull off the petals. All you should have left is essentially the stamen on a stem.

Brush the stamen all over each of the balls that make up the stigma of the female flower. You should be able to see the pollen attaching to the stigma. If pollination is successful, the lump under the female flower will continue to grow into a pumpkin!

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