No matter how big and healthy a plant may be, you must have pollination in order for the fruits to develop. Many plants like tomatoes, peppers, and beans have male and female parts within one flower. But for many plants like cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, and melons, their flowering structures are separate. For pollination to occur in these plants, the male pollen must reach the female flower (specifically the stigma) - no matter how far apart they may be.
This can be done various ways. Sometimes, like with corn, wind is the fuel of pollination. This is why corn does best if planted into blocks instead of rows... but for plants whose male and female flowers are separate, they rely on pollinators. This is the reason I LOVE incorporating flowers into the garden. The flowers not only bring pollinators to the garden, but they also bring predatory bugs that get rid of the bad guys.
Although I have been exclusively using marigolds around the garden for the last few years, I am really enjoying experimenting with new varieties of flowers and the benefits they have among the vegetables. Zinnias have definitely become my new favorite. Some other flowers I have grown to love having around are: pentas, black eyed susans, cosmos, sunflowers, coreopsis, and calendula. Calendula is a flower which will thrive in our cooler weather, and we currently have seeds available!
But what can you do while waiting for those flowers to bloom, when pollinators are far and few in between? You can take matters into your own hands (literally) and hand pollinate! Although there may be multiple ways to do hand pollinate, this is the method I use…
1. Locate the female flowers (when a plant is first starting to bloom, it is very typical for the plant to only have male flowers for a few days+)
2. Once you can verify there are female flowers, locate a male flower and cut off at the stem
behind the petals
3. Peel off petals while being careful not to damage the middle structure containing the pollen
4. Rub that pollen onto the female flower’s stigma
5. Repeat if needed for more female flowers
6. Wait and watch them grow!
So, if you've previously experienced tiny fruits rotting instead of growing, or lots of flowers but no harvest... lack of pollination might have been to blame. Next time, try hand pollinating.
The more you know, the bigger your harvest can be. Have you done this before? Do you use a different method? Let us know in the comments!
Click below to check out our calendula seeds!