Zucchini pollination technique

I have searched for and read several earlier threads about zucchini problems. My two zucchini plants put on fruit, but after growing to lengths of around 3-4", they shriveled up and died. From what I have read it sounds like the problem is a lack of bees to pollinate the plants. I did not, however, read the exact method of hand pollinating the zucchini. I understand you take a male flower, which is located on a fruitless stem, and rub it against a female flower, which is the flower on the end of a fruit. Assuming that is correct, my question then is do I open the female flower to pollinate? The flowers on the ends of my zucchini are closed. I tried rubbing the male flower on a closed female flower and I tried rubbing the male flower on a female flower that I opened manually. Neither appears to have worked. I may have been too late or else my technique needs improving. Also, how soon should I pollinate the female flowers? As soon as they are first formed or should I wait until they grow to a couple of inches long?
If it makes any difference in identifying my zucchini problem, I have cucumbers planted in the same box of my Square Foot Garden and they have done very well. That's one of the reasons I ruled out soil related problems.
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Sounds like my zucchini situation. Thanks to suggestions from the newsgroup folks I began to use a Q-tip to pollinate, swabbing the pollen from the male flower and gently rubbing it on the female. I have to gently tear the females flower open as they don't seem to do it on their own. I try to wait as long as possible to make sure the female is mature, so seems like the zuc is at least two inches long when I pollinate. I have one plant that has grown to a monstrous size and I am awash in zucs - so be careful what you wish for. How many ways can you prepare zucchini??
Karen
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I've had pretty good luck using a Q-tip as well. The key is to make sure you get pollen from the male flower and deposit it directly on the stigma of the female flower (remove the ends of the petals if necessary). The stigma is the broad somewhat sticky end of the pistil. Cover it liberally with pollen and watch your squash grow! Pick your squash when they are small and tender and your plants will continue producing more flowers.
You don't have to fertilize all of them either. Remove the entire flowers including the ovary (undeveloped mini-zukes on female flowers) and pull out the interior flower parts before steaming and serving with flowers on - or stuff the flowers with your favorite stuffing (rice - ground beef - shrimp - whatever) and lightly fry the whole thing. Or you can just pick and stuff the flowers (good use for the males). Always remove the inner structures of the flowers and just stuff the petals - they are great steamed, fried, or grilled. There are literally hundreds of ways to prepare zucchini and I never get sick of them. Did you ever just quarter them lengthwise and roast until golden? Try it.
If you do get sick of them grow the last of your crop to enormous size - yeah the behemoths that aren't really worth eating - and hollow them out to make elongated jack o'lanterns - very cool! Don't forget to roast the seeds for a healthful snack (the ones with "plump" seeds are best for this).
Mike
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Very interesting. I will have to try eating the flowers. Can't imagine what they will taste like. So far I've been making lots of zucchini breads, stuffed zucchini, zucchini casserole, sliced and fried zucchini and raw zucchini in salad. I planted one pole bean with this one zucchini, basil, lettuce, one tomato and one pepper (neither ripening yet) and this meager garden is so far offering an abundance of food!
Karen
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (ATL) wrote:

Just remember that bees do not visit flowers until they are fully opened. I assume that Mother Nature knows what she is doing.
--
Susan N.

There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary and
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(ATL) wrote:

I've noticed that the male flowers on my plant open, but I have yet to see a female open. If they do, it must be for a very short period of time. Karen
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says...

Mine open for a very short time in the morning. By mid-morning they've all closed up, never to reopen. Go out right before or after breakfast.
--
Where ARE those Iraqi WMDs?

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