An early warm summer means that the squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and pumpkins are flourishing.
These crops love the hot weather but if the flowers are not pollinated, fruit does not form.
Flowers are either complete or incomplete.
Complete flowers have both pistil and stamen, female and male flower parts.
Flowers that are complete will usually self-pollinate in a gentle breeze, a slight shake or with insects.
There are pollination sprays on the market but they do not pollinate the plant.
The spray shakes the plant enough to get it to self-pollinate.
It is effective if used as it reminds people to shake the plants.
According to the Stokes catalogue the best time to pollinate a tomato plant is between 10 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon.
Both peppers and tomatoes will cross pollinate which with another variety of pepper or tomato which means that different varieties planted close together can produce interesting results.
Zucchini, pumpkins, melons and squash produce male and female flowers.
Zucchini’s usually pollinate quickly as both male and female flowers appear early in the year.
Squash and pumpkins usually produce male flowers for at least a week before the female ones arrive. Given a long season, insects pollinate more fruit that the plants can sustain.
Unfortunately, the season is short which means that it is important to pollinate female flowers as soon as they appear.
It is easy to distinguish between male and female flowers.
Male flowers are usually on a taller stem and the female flower will have a miniature fruit below the flower.
Squash flowers are easy to pollinate as the flowers are large.
To pollinate a flower the pollen of the male flower must come in contact with the stigma on the female flower.
This can occasionally be done by shaking pollen from the male flower into the flower but it doesn’t always work.
Removing pollen from the male flower with a cotton swab, or paintbrush and rubbing it on the stigma has much better results.
When there are many male flowers, picking one and rubbing it on the stigma on the female flower is very effective.
All flowers on squash are short lived.
It is best to pollinate in the morning when the flowers just open.
There are two types of cucumbers, seedless often called; greenhouse or long english and the ones with seeds in the middle.
Seedless cucumbers do not need to be pollinated.
Left on their own, they will grow into long, tasty fruit. All other varieties of cucumbers, like the squash, and melons have male and female flowers and must be pollinated to produce fruit.
Cucumbers that are gown outside, and not covered are usually pollinated by insects.
Ones that are grown in the greenhouse or under a row cover should be hand pollinated.
It is easy to see if flowers are not pollinated as the flowers and miniature fruit will turn yellow and drop from the plants.
Taking the time to pollinate plants in the morning can make a huge difference to the crop.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at email@example.com