Monday, March 25, 2013

Pumpkin sex

Before you get worried about the goings on in Sustainaburbia land I'd just like to point out that this is not some depraved post on carnal activities involving vegetables like Roberto Benigni's character in Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth movie (if you haven't seen it do, it's hilarious). No, it's about hand pollinating pumpkins. Our pumpkins are flowering late this year and as usual we are finding the need to visit them each morning to lend a hand in the pollination process. If you have plenty of bees and other pollinators around you may not need to do this, but if you find that your pumpkin fruit fizzle out after a few weeks then this could be due to a lack of pollinators. Planting lots of flowers will help attract pollinators. Anyway here's how we do pumpkin sex.

Firstly you need to know the difference between the sexes. The male flowers come first, are more numerous and have a long thin stork below the flower.

The females generally flower later to make sure there are many males available for mating with. Below the flower you'll see a voluptuous mini pumpkin fruit like this.

We rip off a good looking male and tear off the flower petals to expose the stamen, with pollen. The pollen is ready if it comes off the stamen easily in your finger.

The female will only be receptive to pollination for a day or so, so you need to keep an eye out for females flowers. The best time for sex is in the morning (as we all know), so get up nice and early to do this. The next step is just to push the stamen into the female flower's central area (the stigma).

The end result looks something like this.

Hopefully after a while you'll get a nice big pumpkin like this Jap.

You just can't have too much pumpkin stored for winter baking and soup, so get out there and do some pumpkin sex. I'm sure you'll enjoy it just like we do...


  1. Hi, I'm new to reading your blog after I saw your piece on Gardening Australia, your place looks amazing. I'm on the North Coast of NSW and have just harvested my Queensland Blue pumpkins, they are 'curing' on the back deck at the moment. Have you had much experience storing pumpkins long term, and what have you found to be the best method? eg where do you store them?

    I'm guessing by our harvest (13 off 4 vines) that our pumpkins had no sexual for the moment I must remain a pumpkin sex virgin!

  2. Hi busy mum of 3. Well done, 13 fruit from 4 vines is great, we quite often just get one per vine. Try to store them with as much vine still attached as possible. A cool, dry area is the best place to store them (eg a cellar). Make sure they're not touching each other and check them periodically to see they're not going off. Good luck with it.

  3. I too have had a great crop this year, 26 pumpkins at last count by my 10 year old. we didn't need to self polinate this year but have done so in the past. My boys like doing the self polinating job to see the female close up her petals and begin to grow her pumpkin.

  4. I am jealous as I've had no girl flowers on all five of my vines this year only boy flowers what is the secret what am I doing wrong ???

  5. That's strange, you may just have to wait a while (female flowers start after a few males have come). The other reason could be that the soil is low in potassium, in which case you can add sulphate of potash.