How To Hand Pollinate Pumpkin Plants: How To Hand Pollinate Pumpkins
Hand pollinating of pumpkin plants is one of the most popular methods used to propagate pumpkins. There are several reasons why it’s so popular.
First, hand pollination allows you to control exactly what happens with your seeds. You don’t have to worry about them being damaged or even dying during transport. Second, hand pollination is very easy to perform. All you need is a sharp knife and some time. Third, there are different techniques that allow you to get the best results from each seedling.
There are two main types of hand pollinations that occur with pumpkin plants:
1) The “cuttings” method which involves cutting a small piece of stem from the top of the flower bud.
2) The “pumpkin head” method which involves inserting a piece of cuttings into the mouth orifice of a pumpkin.
The first type of hand pollination is called the “cuttings” method because it involves taking cuttings out of one part (head, stalk, etc.) and placing them into another part (flower bud, base).
This method is very common and effective. One of the best things about the “cuttings” method is that it allows you to grow new pumpkin plants from pumpkins that are too damaged or rotten to use. It also provides the opportunity to grow pumpkins in places where they normally wouldn’t grow (provided there is a stem, stalk, or root present).
The second type of hand pollination is called the “pumpkin head” method because it involves placing a piece of the stem, stalk, or root inside the mouth orifice of another pumpkin. This method is extremely easy and doesn’t require any special equipment.
It limits the types of pumpkins that can be used as well since only certain varieties can be “opened up” to accept a new piece of stem.
Most growers use a combination of both these techniques to get the best results.
How To Pollinate Pumpkin Plants With Cuttings
The first step of hand pollinating your pumpkin plants with cuttings is to choose a healthy parent plant. This is the plant which will provide the stem, stalk, or root for the new pumpkins.
Ideally you want to use a plant that’s at least two years old. The parent plant should be free of diseases and have a strong root system. The goal is to get the best fruits possible so always choose a good parent plant.
The second step is to observe the growth of the plant and the flowers on it. For pumpkins with long vines (i.e.
Big Max), you generally want to clip the vine near the top where it starts to branch out. You then will take this piece and root it (see below). For pumpkins with shorter vines (i.e. Jack Be Little), you can cut out a whole piece of vine including the bud and root it. Again, this new rooted vine will produce new pumpkins.
The third step is to wait until the plant starts to flower. This is easily identified by the male and female flowers.
The male flowers have no stem or green parts and just appear on the vine. The female flowers have a long stem and two green leaves attached. At this point you will remove the male flowers to ensure all the plants energy goes into producing fruit. This is easily done by clipping them off near the stem.
The fourth step is to wait some more until a flower develops that isn’t a female flower. For Big Max and JBP varieties, this will be easy since these varieties only produce female flowers.
For other varieties though you have to choose which flowers to root and which to remove. Look for a flower that is away from the main grouping of female flowers. Try to aim for a location where there are several developing pumpkins underneath since you will be removing the parent plant soon. Carefully snip or snap the stem of this male flower off as close to the base of the vine as possible. Try not to damage the main vine since you will be using this below.
The fifth and final step is to locate a good spot to take root. You will want to find a place in your garden that has excellent drainage.
If your garden has heavy soil or tends to get muddy, this is especially important since the new pumpkins need air around their roots. The best location is usually a area that tends to stay dry even when the rest of the garden is wet. You can also plant the stem in a separate small container that has drainage.
The stem will need at least a couple inches of clearance above it to grow so don’t bury it. The stem should be planted at a slant (i.e.
45 degree angle). This is so that the new roots form on the side of the stem where it was broken off the parent plant. This will give the new stem a better chance of taking root and producing pumpkins in future years.
Stick the stem into the ground firmly so that it can take root. Water it well and then mulch around the stem to ensure that it gets enough moisture.
You will have to keep an eye on it at first to see that it doesn’t dry out, but after a month or two you shouldn’t need to water it anymore since it will have established its own roots by then.
After a few weeks, you can carefully remove the parent plant. It is very important that you do this since this is what is providing all the nutrients that the new stem needs in order to produce pumpkins.
If you don’t remove it then all of the plants energy will go into producing seeds instead of pumpkins and it won’t be good for anything.
In a few months, a small pumpkin should begin to grow at the base of the stem. It may take a year for this to happen.
If it fails to produce a pumpkin by the second year, you probably chose the wrong spot or didn’t care for it properly. Choose a new spot and start over.
If everything goes well, the stem should produce several pumpkins every year that will be similar in size to those produced by the parent plant. Over the years, these pumpkins will slowly get smaller and less productive until they can no longer produce any at all.
At this point you can either choose to renew the parent plant by doing the above steps again or simply replace it with a new one.
As I said before, I tried this method with mediocre results. I did get a few pumpkins every year, though the numbers never reached double digits.
Sources & references used in this article:
Effects of honey bee pollination on pumpkin fruit and seed yield by SA Walters, BH Taylor – HortScience, 2006 – journals.ashs.org
Functional group diversity of bee pollinators increases crop yield by P Hoehn, T Tscharntke… – … of the Royal …, 2008 – royalsocietypublishing.org
Evaluating pollination deficits in pumpkin production in New York by JD Petersen, AS Huseth, BA Nault – Environmental entomology, 2014 – academic.oup.com
Pollination problems in Styrian oil pumpkin plants: can bumblebees be an alternative to honeybees by R Fuchs, M Muller – Phyton, 2004 – zobodat.at