The pandemic garden is developing nicely, and I am awash in zucchini and kale. The green onions, early potatoes, and carrots have all been harvested. The first tomatoes are starting to turn red, and the pole beans are snaking their way up the bamboo tents I constructed for them. Since we expanded the garden this year I finally have the space to plant multiple varieties of winter squash and pumpkins. The latest round of rain has caused the vines to grow rapidly, and the garden is full of beautiful yellow blossoms. During this morning’s garden inspection I noticed that very few squash and pumpkins are actually forming on the vines. Pollination isn’t the problem. Over 150,000 honey bees are within a short walk of the garden. Bees are so heavy on the blossoms that the vines have an audible buzz. Upon closer inspection I realized the problem is that I have all male flowers.
My posts are normally G rated, but this post is going to be PG because we have to discuss pumpkin and squash reproduction. Squash and pumpkins have male flowers and female flowers. You can tell them apart because the female flowers will have a tiny, immature fruit at the base of the flower. Pollinators (usually honey bees) have to transfer the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers in a process known as pollination. If the female flower doesn’t get pollinated, the blossom dies and you get no squash. The problem is my squash and pumpkin vines have all male flowers. Not a female flower in sight. What is going on with this squash misogyny? The zucchini and crook neck yellow squash in my smaller garden don’t have this problem. Maybe the small garden is more egalitarian than the new, larger garden.
I did what I always do when confronted with a vexing problem, I turned to Google. Apparently this problem is not uncommon. Some gardening forum posts stated that the dearth of female blossoms is due to a soil deficiency, but they didn’t cite what was actually deficient in the soil. This kind of ambiguous response is why I am not a fan of social media forums. Other sources I read said that weather conditions may cause male flowers to be favored over female. The article basically said that if it is too hot and dry the pumpkins put out a “No Girls Allowed” sign on the pumpkin vine clubhouse. Another source said that some squash form mostly male flowers first and the female flowers follow later. I am hoping that this last option is the case and that in a few days the female flowers will form. Maybe in another week I will see female flowers wearing white pants suits marching down the vines right behind the male flowers.
What’s the point of all this? The point is I want a pumpkin pie in November made from a pumpkin that I grew. That dream is going to die on the vine, literally, if I don’t get some female blossoms.
I used to work for a large, multinational Japanese company. The company employed a shockingly small number of women in leadership positions. I read one of the quarterly reports that described the company’s desire to include more women in leadership roles. Something didn’t translate properly in the English version because the report said the company needed to “make the environment more comfortable for women.” I remember reading that and thinking, “What do they think they need to do for us, put pink couches in the conference rooms?” Women didn’t need to be made comfortable. We needed to be recruited and hired. The same holds true for my garden. I need my pumpkin HR managers to start recruiting and hiring female blossoms. That might not be a perfect metaphor, but you get the idea.
In my last post I promised to write about the honey harvest. We did finish the honey harvest. All went well, but I haven’t felt inspired to write about it and that kept me from writing any new posts. Finally I decided that this is my blog so I can write what I want to write, which is why you are reading about female squash blossoms in pants suits instead of how hard it is to keep my German shepherd away from a 5 gallon bucket full of honey. These are the things with which I struggle. I am going to go find a pink couch to lie upon so I feel more comfortable.