Tuesday, June 11, 2013

hand pollination in a hoop house

This spring I was feeling bold, and planted four melon vines, which is more than I have ever attempted to grow, despite having had no real success in past years with this heat loving fruit. Our coastal summers are relatively cool, and though this melon variety is known to be cold tolerant, they haven't thrived out in my garden; so this year I've put them in the hoophouse. The only problem with this is not many pollinators make it into the hoophouse, so I knew I'd have to attempt pollination myself. I have been patiently waiting for female flowers to join the many male flowers that have been blooming, and over the last 3 days, the first 3 have finally opened!

At the same time I discovered the first female flower, I noticed a small pile of jute rope sitting near the plant. It seemed like it would make the perfect little brush. I cut a short section and separated out a small bundle of the fibers.

Above is a male flower. Notice the simple flower base sitting on the stem.

 I rubbed the stamen - the parts inside the male flower which are covered in pollen - with my little brush,

and then I brought it to a female flower. Notice the bulge of what looks like a tiny fruit under the flower. That bulge is the easiest way to identify a female melon flower.

  Here is the inside of the female flower, looking ready to receive pollen.

I brushed the pollen I collected from the male flower into the pistil of the female flower, repeating the process a number of times, visiting different male flowers - somewhat like a bee might do, buzzing from flower to flower. Hopefully I will have been successful, and my vines will set some fruit!

Has anyone tried hand pollination? How did it go?
I find the whole sexual anatomy of plants so fascinating. It's amazing how perfectly equipped each life form is, to perpetuate itself. 


  1. I tried this last year with a little paint brush. I will admit, it was fun. Ha!

  2. thank you for this post, abby. i had room in the greenhouse for three melons and i was wondering how i was going to attract pollinators! now i will be getting out a little brush and trying it by hand...

    1. Nice! Thanks Jessica, glad to know it was helpful.

  3. my Granddad use a rabbit's tail to pollinate his tomatoes, traditions are curious things