What happened to my squash?

Squash plants must produce male and female flowers. This summer’s heat is delaying the process.

A common complaint I receive during hot, dry summers is from gardeners describing beautifully growing cucumbers plants, butternut or acorn squash, pumpkins and melons that are producing lots of flowers, but no fruits. Their frustration is understandable, but when this happens, patience is a virtue.

An interesting fact about this family of vegetables called the cucurbits is that they produce both male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flowers are produced first and later the female flowers start to appear. They are easily identified by looking for the ovary that is located just behind the flower petals and looks like a miniature version of the fruit. When the weather is hot and dry, the production of female flowers can be delayed, sometimes for weeks.

To avoid this physiological condition, it is best to fertilize according to soil testing recommendations. Avoid excessive nitrogen applications and provide a dependable supply of moisture weekly. Most plants need at least an inch of water per week. If rain is lacking, supplemental water will be necessary.

Be patient – this condition always corrects itself. If both male and female flowers are being produced, but no fruit, watch the new flowers to determine if bees are in the area and working. If there are few bees and lots of competition for their attention, your plants may lose out.

Contact your local Michigan State University Extension office for additional assistance, or try our toll-free hotline, 888-678-3464.

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