Q: My summer squash is producing loads of fruit. The problem is they only get the size of my first pinky finger joint and then they fall off. What is wrong?
A: I suspect your squash is not getting pollinated. Squash, in addition to all the cucurbits like watermelon and cucumbers, have male and female flowers. In order for the female to produce completely mature fruit; her flower must be pollinated by the pollen from male flowers. The pollen from the male flowers is deposited on the female flowers as the bees go from flower to flower gathering nectar. Unfortunately, we have been seeing the populations of bees diminishing in greater numbers every year. We are not certain of the root cause of the decline in bee populations but we have certainly been seeing the result – fewer fully developed fruit.
What can we do? First, you can pollinate your own plants. I know it sounds crazy but since you have a small garden it can be done by hand. Take a small artist paint brush and go from flower to flower. This will transfer the pollen manually. Your flowers will ultimately produce fully developed fruit. Of course, this is not practical for farmers therefore missing bees is a serious threat to their fruit and vegetable production. Those of us with home gardens can also use pesticide wisely. Overuse of insecticides can cause pest resistance and be harmful to bee populations. Use pesticides judiciously for the best results now and in the future. “The Label is the Law.”