Our GardenPlanting

Hand pollination (a.k.a. Plan Bee)

The girls and I are learning so much from our garden. From the best companions for our plants to the importance of the tiny bee, we are definitely taking in a whole world of knowledge!

Speaking of bees, today we are closely observing their habits.

We notice that there are slightly fewer bees buzzing around now in comparison to spring. In some cases, this means there is less pollination of certain fruit and vegetables. This, in turn, causes some of the plants to flower but not to generate any fruit.

Our garden is, overall, producing quite abundantly. Our Datterinos are exploding, our Granny Smiths are coming along nicely and our strawberries are in full bloom. However, we notice that some of our female zucchini flowers are not growing into the sweet summer veggie. And, having bloomed a few days back, they should have by now.

Not sure whether we are off timing or our plants just aren’t getting enough bee attention, we decide to read up on alternative pollination methods.

Luckily, we have numerous research publications which address the subject. We look up several practices and stop on one: hand pollination. Since we know zucchini are not self-pollinating – unlike peanuts and eggplant – we think we may help our plant in getting a start by using this method.

We walk out toward the zucchini, a little excited to try something so cool but also a little weary that we’re taking nature’s place. We agree to pollinate only three flowers to see if it will help.

So what steps must we take to start?

  1. Identify the male and female flowers. The male has a long, straight stem inside its bloom, and is full of pollen. The female stem is stout, large and looks like a mini zucchini.
  2. Open the male flower. We remove the petals, exposing its stem laden with pollen.
  3. The female flower should have bloomed. Open it, without removing its petals.
  4. Transfer the pollen to the stems of the female flowers. One male stem pollinates at least three flowers, so we have enough. I let the girls take care of the transfer with their delicate little fingers.
  5. Give the flower time to react to the pollination. A few days should be enough to see a tiny zucchini form.

On one hand, we are now excited and ready to see if the method will help.

On the other hand, we feel a little uneasy. As if we have imposed our need to see plant growth over a completely natural process. As if we’ve rushed the plant into doing something it would have anyway, just because our zucchinis had not started forming according to textbook timing.

So we are not sure we will go for Plan Bee again. We would rather take our time and learn about attracting pollinators in a natural way. We’ll see where this takes us. Stay tuned for the adventure!



Michelle Calcatelli

Michelle Calcatelli

Hi there! My name is Michelle. I'm an American living in Italy, mom of two girls, a lover of travel, music and good food shared with loved ones. I am a freelance grant writer and a former agricultural development practitioner, having worked mostly in rural Africa for 18 years. I look forward to creating a space here - with your help - where we can exchange dreams, ideas and kindness to start shaping a better tomorrow.

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