A How-To to Make You Blush
Who knew hand-pollinating pumpkins could make you feel so awkward?
The bees had been increasing but we're not the sort to leave anything to chance, and when you're looking for a reason to play in the dirt, you take what you can get. Even if it means feeling a bit pervy.
Justin had been reading from Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners about the pollination of pumpkins. It was something he had hoped to do but it seemed our pumpkin flowers only opened in the morning when he was at work. I'm not sure if this was normal or simply a result of our desert heat. This left the job to me.
First, Justin showed me the male flowers. Not sure how to tell a male flower from a female flower when hand-pollinating pumpkins? If the pumpkin flower is open, its maleness is pretty obvious. That thing sticking out? It's called a stamen. Or you can pull a Tara and refer to it as its "thingy".
If the pumpkin flower is closed, look at the stem directly under the flower. A male flower will be only a stem, while a female flower has what will become the pumpkin (affectionately called it's "lovely lady lump"), its size depending on how soon its flower will open. This is the size of the pumpkin the day it opened, but we first saw it when it was the size of a pea:
When the female flower opens, it's difference is easy to tell. Instead of a single stamen, it has a multi-segmented stigma. Or what I lovingly refer to as it's "girly stuff".
All in all, hand-pollinating pumpkins was incredible simple, albeit a little embarrassing. After asking permission and apologizing profusely, I rubbed a Qtip around the males stamen, picking up the pollen. (You can also use your finger, but I really felt that was taking it too far.) I felt more than a little dirty inserting that Q-tip into the females stigma. We both blushed, had a moment, moved on.
Within the day, the flower had closed up and began drying and it's baby bump had already begun growing. Five days later, it's grown exponentially (proof of my prowess, perhaps?)!
(This is a Howden pumpkin, BTW, planted for jack 'o lanterns at Halloween. Who knew they'd also offer so much sex education?)
For more great info on growing from and saving seeds, as well as how to pollinate, harvest and more, I highly recommend the book, Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners. It is jammed packed with information from cover to cover; nothing superfluous or uninteresting. It even covers some of the history of the plant breeds and crosses. It's one of our favorite and most used gardening books. (I'll admit, in my lameness, I read this like I'd read a novel.)