Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rotten squash!

Got rotten squash? Maybe I can help! Now, I profess to be no expert, but after noodling around online and using my own educated guesses, here are my 2 theories for those little squashes that you get so excited about, then 2 days later you find totally rotten. 

Rotting 'Big Mama' Squash

How it's SUPPOSED to look. 

1) Lack of pollination. You might think you have squash growing because the base of a female flower looks exactly like the baby squash. And really, it IS the baby squash, but unless you get proper pollination from a male flower, that little baby ain't gonna grow! It's going to rot off the vine and let the plant give it another go. 

If you'd like to give your babies a fighting chance, you can take a male flower, and using a paintbrush or a cotton swab, transfer some pollen from the male to the female. To be honest, I just rip open the male and gently rub the stamens around on the stigma of the female. Hmm, I just realized that sounds rather nasty! I doubt that's really the best option, but I rarely have a paintbrush around when it occurs to me to do some hand-pollinating!

This is a male flower. Notice the lack of a baby-squash-looking thing.

This is a female flower. See that cute little squash at the base? It'll look just like the squash you are trying to grow. This is a pumpkin, therefore the female flower has a baby pumpkin at the base. Your female zucchini flowers will have long skinny bases that look, unsurprisingly, like baby zucchinis. 

This is what you get when there's adequate pollination! An adolescent pumpkin. :)

2) Blossom end rot. Contrary to popular thought, you can blossom end rot just as much in a dry summer as in a wet summer. Blossom end rot in squashes, as well as tomatoes, arises from inconsistent watering, which keeps the plant from properly taking up calcium. The solution to this problem is to make sure your plants are consistently watered. You can also toss some crushed eggshells around the base of your plant. 

Here's a website with some more details. Note what it says right at the end: "BER should not be confused with fruit abortion or inadequate pollination although the symptoms may appear similar. The onset of BER occurs only after the fruit is well on it's way to development while insufficient pollination problems terminate the fruit while still quite small."

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