Reader Question: Squash Plants Not Producing Fruit

Today’s question comes from Phil in Upper Marlboro, Maryland:

I have squash in the garden that have produced little to no fruit this year. I have 10 plants (one isn’t looking so good) but I’ve only harvested about 15 squash. With the exception of the one plant, the plants look perfectly healthy. Any ideas?

Great question Phil…it’s one that I’ve heard a few times this year. Since your squash seem to be healthy my first thought is that the female blooms aren’t being fertilized. Not fertilized as in N-P-K but not fertilized by the male flowers. Squash are really cool plants that produce two very distinct flowers. When the female flowers, she already has a little baby squash behind the flower. If the flower isn’t pollinated, the little fruit and the flower wither away and die. If she is fortunate enough to receive the pollen from her male counterpart, then the baby squash grows and grows and ends up on your plate. Let’s take a look at the female flower.

squash
Photo courtesy of www.umd.edu

 

See the baby squash? The male flower is similar to the female except that is borne on a little stem. You can think of the stem as the male anatomy if that helps you remember which is which. With the male flower, there isn’t a baby squash behind the flower either. Here is a picture of the male flower.

squash flower
Photo courtesy of www.clemson.edu

 

Do you see the difference? Well, now that we’ve had our squash anatomy class, how can we make your squash plants produce squash? By helping nature along. Take a paint brush or a q-tip and get some of the male pollen and place it in the female flower. You don’t have to put on latex gloves and a white lab coat. Just be sure that the male pollen makes it to the female flowers.

I just realized that I assumed that your squash plants are flowering. If they aren’t flowering, then you have a whole ‘nother issue. If that’s the case, chances are that your nitrogen levels are too high and your plants are focusing on foliage production instead of flowers. If that’s the case, back off of the fertilizer and you should see your plants start to flower. If nature doesn’t take it’s course, then help her along like we talked about above.

I hope that helps you Phil. If any of the other Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers have other suggestions for Phil, leave me a comment below or e-mail me. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Happy gardening!

 

 

June 28, 2012Permalink 4 Comments

4 thoughts on “Reader Question: Squash Plants Not Producing Fruit

  1. After watching squash blooms continue to fall off young plants in my small South Carolina garden and only one squash developing, I was suspecting insects, rabbits, rain, and nutrients. But after your informative article, I learned the problem wasn’t any of the above. The pictures are worth 1000 words as I found only one female flower in all my plants, all the rest were male. Hopefully I will have at least two squash now. However, this does beg the question, other than mother nature, does anything control male vs. female flower production?

    • Hi David! I’m so sorry that it has taken me so long to get back to you! Unfortunately, there isn’t anything you can do to force your plants to have more female flowers. As you know, we females are pretty stubborn! 🙂 Many times, there are more male flowers in the beginning of the season and then the female flowers show up. I hope that your squash are producing like crazy by now!

    • I know this is several years late, but back off your nitrogen(n) and use a higher potassium(k) mixture (like for rose or flower blooming) if you think you have way too much nitro in your soil, use a long stick like a dowel rod to poke 8~12″ holes around your plant (be careful not to damage the root structure too much so space them apart!) out to about a foot away from the core then water deeply several times throughout a week, then allow it to dry and start in with a non existent nitro, pro potassium, low phosphorus blend

      The Day/Night cycle can affect sexing of flowers, you might notice less female production in the longer instances of summer where the plants recieve over 12 hours of sun each day, you can toss light blocking fabric over a simple hut structure and fool the plants into napping earlier.

      Hope thats a bit better explanation then what the site provides.

      Amy – M.H/Bs CsLCM =)

  2. A year ago I had beautiful squash plants, produced a bounty of vegetables. Happy!! This year I got no yield. But, after reading you article, I now realize why. My plants produced tons of male flowers and only a few female. Plus, the few female were late while the male showed up with big showy flowers, they died back before the female flowers appeared. I’ve gardened for years, never saw anything like this year. Oh well, there’s always next year!

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