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April 30, 2016

QuestionI have squash plants that have plenty of flowers but they don’t set any squash.  I have seen bees in the yard, but not near the squash plants.  Is there such a thing as male squash plants?  Is there something I can do to get some squash?


AnswerSquash plants, like all members of the cucurbit family have separate male flowers and separate female flowers. The flowers themselves look quite similar, but look behind the yellow blooms. On the male flower there will simply be a stalk, with the flowers containing stamens covered in pollen. The female flower will have a small squash behind the bloom hoping to get pollinated. If no bees come by to carry the pollen from the male bloom to the female bloom, you won’t get any squash, unless you transfer the pollen manually by hand. Bees can be a bit finicky. If you only have a few squash blooms there may not be enough to interest them. They leave the hive and only travel to one type of bloom before heading back. If you have a handful of squash plants, they probably have more numerous blooms of other plants that they are attracted to.


March 2014

QuestionWe are planning our summer garden and always have problems with squash vine borers or beetles destroying our otherwise healthy, productive summer squash and zucchini plants.  Our only recourse seems to be replanting and hope they don't attack the new plants.  Is there a way to prevent them from attacking the plants in the first place? 

AnswerWhile some squash vine borers may be overwintering in your garden to come back and attack, the adults seem to find even new squash plantings. Two things you can do to help prevent injury. One monitor for the adults—they look somewhat like a wasp with orange bodies. You can try trapping them—they are attracted to the color yellow. You can buy traps or make your own using a shallow pan of water painted yellow—an old plastic yellow butter tub works well. They fly in and drown. When you see the adults you can use an insecticide at the soil line, but it needs replenishing when it gets washed off and you need to be careful not to hurt your pollinators. If you plant using transplants, you can wrap the stems lightly that go into the ground with aluminum foil to act as a barrier for the boring larvae or if grown from seed, once established, pull back the soil and lightly wrap the exposed trunk with foil. 


September 2012

QuestionWe are a bit stumped at a plant that came up in our garden. For a long time, we thought it was a honeydew melon, but I cut one, and it had the flavor of a cucumber. Is it a squash that has grown larger than it should have? There were only two of these on the entire plant, and both fruits grew very large.


AnswerThe leaves look more like a watermelon. Did the plant grow from a seed left over from last year? If so, it could be a cross between a cucumber, squash, watermelon, etc. -- members of the cucurbit family will cross pollinate and the resulting seeds can give you some pretty interesting fruits. It should be safe to eat, and you may like the flavor, or not.

July 2012

QuestionCan you tell from these pictures why I am not getting any squash? I keep getting these gorgeous male blossoms; but the lower female blossoms appear to be rotting off the stems? Am I watering too much or perhaps not enough or what is the problem? I have seen and killed several squash bugs and/or stink bugs; but I have not seen them for awhile. In the meantime, I continue to see these healthy-looking plants with new beautiful blossoms; but no squash or zucchini.


AnswerYou aren't alone. Summer squash seems to be much more affected by the heat than other members of the cucurbits. Folks are getting cucumbers and melons, but no squash. Even those with beehives in their backyard are having an issue. For some, a lack of pollinators can affect the fruit set. Squash has separate male and female flowers and to get squash, something needs to transfer pollen from the male bloom to the female bloom. If you don’t have bees, you can do it yourself with a paint brush or q-tip. But from the pictures, it looks like your female flowers aren't even opening up, so there is no chance of fruit set. I would not blame it on a damaging insect or lack of bees, but I would blame it on the weather. I am pulling my squash and going to use that space for okra and more peppers, which can take the heat.

July 2006

QuestionI planted a winter squash this year, butternut squash, for the first time. Some of the squash are getting fairly large now but are till green. How do you know when the squash are ready for harvest?


AnswerButternut squash will typically turn a light tan or buff color when mature. As with all winter squashes, they will have a hard outer rind when mature. They are a long season crop taking usually about 90 days to mature. When they are fully mature, they store quite well, or can be eaten when harvested.

February 2006

QuestionMy wife is a native of South Dakota and her favorite squash is the butternut which grows well in the Upper Midwest. We brought some seeds back last fall from South Dakota and plan on planting them this spring in Maumelle. When and how is
the best way to grow butternut squash in Arkansas? 

AnswerButternut squash grows very well here. Plant in May after the soil has warmed up a bit. It usually takes about 90 days before you begin harvesting, but it is prolific. Watch out for squash vine borers, stink bugs and powdery mildew. With winter squashes we usually plant them in a hill or raised area putting three to four seeds per hill. You can thin out to 2-3 after germination occurs. Give them ample room to grow, as they are wide spreading. Mulch well to keep weeds away. Fertilize at planting and side dress 6-8 weeks later.

December 2005

QuestionWe had to give up a large landscaped house for a town house in Hot Springs Village. Therefore I have grown tomato plants directly in bags of soil on a sunny deck (with slits in the bottom of the sacks). What tomato variety do you suggest as the very best? Peppers have been successful, grown in bags of soil also; but what variety might you suggest as best? Has squash been successful?


AnswerYou could ask ten different gardeners which variety of tomato is best, and you would probably get ten different answers. We all have our favorites. Usually when we grow tomatoes in containers, which I would classify as the bag method, the bush type of tomatoes is easier to manage. Tomatoes come as either determinate varieties--bush type, or indeterminate--those that keep growing. The determinate ones usually have a stronger stem and don't require the rigid staking. They are usually more manageable in size. For peppers, almost all should perform well. The banana type peppers may not be as nutritionally needy as the bell types, but with proper nutrition and watering, anything is possible. They sell space saving varieties of squash and cucumbers--more bush-like in habit, specifically for containers.


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