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For some reason this year I have no female fruiting flowers on my butternut squashes in the polytunnel. A few male flowers and lots of folliage but no fruit! Anyone had the same problem or have any tips as to how I might encourage some fruit?! Possibly been too hot in there?
nickharr, male flowers always appear before the females. You just have to be patient. And, given that they're in a polytunnel, it's likely you mightn't get the amount of insect life you'll need for pollination. You could need to hand pollinate to guarantee fruit.
Hi Italophile - thanks for your reply and advice. As you say - I'll have to be more patient!
My butternuts did something very unusual this year. Produced female flowers first. Never seen it before. Probably never see it again.
I have a similar thing with 3 squash plants outdoors - patty pans etc - lots of foliage, lots of flowers but no fruit yet. Think the recent sun and rain mix in the UK has invigorated them, so waiting on fruit progress. Bees seem to be around them a lot so as you say could just be a slowish year and need to be patient.
I was equally frustrated with a couple of dozen beautiful female embryonic squashes and not a single male flower to fertilise them. I did wonder if it was the hot weather coupled with the face that I put a couple of barrows of rich compost made with horse muck and garden stuff. There was so much leafy cover, some leaves larger than dinner plates. However, I did eventually get a few males and also helped things along with a Q tip, paying attention to those hidden under the foliage where I thought the bees wouldn't find them. I have a really healthy crop now and am starting to pick off anything that doesn't look as if it will mature before beginning October. At least, not encouraging more pollinating now. Not sure if this is the right thing to do, but if I already have several butternuts on a bush, I'm thinking this is enough for the plant to cope with and ripen in time. The're fun to watch growing, I'm spending time every day picking off the debris, watering in the morning if needed and leaving the sun to dry the plants quickly. I've grown Harrier this year and am very pleased with the speedy growth in size of the butternuts. Last year wasn't good, I grew Cobnut but what the weather, not many ripened. I have seventeen plants in total. Will definitely grow this variety again as they are specifically bred for UK and ripen the quickest in 95 days. I haven't tried a polytunnel but am tempted for another year. It might be too hot in the poly this year as the weather is so exceptional. I did read somewhere that they won't perform if over 32 degrees.
Kate, good idea to remove the fruit that won't mature before the end of the season. Your abundance of foliage could have been down to an excess of nitrogen in the stuff you dug into the soil. Nitrogen will encourage foliage growth. Once fruit is established, a feed with something higher in potassium is a good idea.
Italophile, can you suggest anything high in potassium that is organic, please? Would bone/blood/fish meal be any good at this stage? I did try and put some down last week but I also have too much foliage, probably due to putting too much rich compost into the raised beds. I've 85 butternuts, or so, growing and stopped them as much as possible. With their being so much growth it is difficult to get into the middle of the beds. Many thanks.
Liquid comfrey feed is high in potash and quickly absorbed. In fact, I put several comfrey leaves, covered with a layer of soil, at the bottom of my squash planting holes when they go in. The rotting process may produce a small amount of heat too which may help when they are young. Excellent results so far this year - biggest squash I've ever grown and am also impressed by 'Harrier' - will definitely be growing those again.
Good advice from Bob, ladybutternut. You can also use a tomato fertiliser. Good tom fertilisers are low in nitrogen, high in potassium. You just have to check the NPK figures on the label prior to purchase. Some tom fertilisers overdo the nitrogen.
Thank you so much, Bob and Italophile for the helpful advice. I'm not sure where to buy the comfrey feed, or indeed whether I should be making it from leaves. I have to confess that although I am a farmers wife, I have absolutely no idea what the leaf even looks like. I shall also have a look at organic tomato feed. Would these be any different in nutrients to stirring old compost made from pony muck and general garden debris, into a bucket of water? I've done that once this season. I've also pruned the large leaves blocking the sunlight from individual squashes. I did read the well informed gentleman from Liverpools blog on butternuts, in recent years he seems to just push the leaves to one side. It makes sense but even when you tuck them around other leaves they tend to find their way back. Also, I find that any leaves even slightly squashed seem to wilt and become diseased quickly. I am pleased with my results to date this year but trying to do better than in the past. Last years efforts were not good but I didn't overly tend them. Previous years I have had squashes to last several months and many to pass around friends. These Harriers from T and M I agree are really brilliant with their speed and definitely give one much hope of getting to maturity before the frost, unless disease gets there first! Thank you both.
I grew Harrier last year and got a crop even in the most awful season - I was really impressed!
Haven't grown any this year solely because I have a forest of tomato plants in my garden courtesy of Italophile - next year I shall be more restrained in my tomato-growing .... I think
Yeah yeah, Dove, famous last words.
lbn, you make comfrey fertiliser from comfrey leaves. Soak them in water in a container with a lid for about a month depending on the temperature. The resultant liquid is then diluted before use.
Old compost mixed with water wouldn't have the nutrients you'd be looking for.
Soldacki are turning red Italophile and the others are looking promising.... Anna Russian are trying to join the runner beans up the wigwam - but the biggest trusses are on the Pink Gaetano
Apologies for talking tomato on the squash thread
Dovefromabove, that is so encouraging to know you got a crop even during a bad season, I had read as much but you do wonder...
Italophile, thank you for that information about the comfrey fertiliser. It is going to be too late for me to make for this year but I shall research the leaf for next, definitely. I was up at 6.30 am doing my compost fertiliser as I knew I hadn't got time to get to the garden centre for a look around. The butternuts are probably doing well but their growth is nothing as quick as a month ago. I'm hoping pruning some of the excess growth will help.
ps just browsing the internet. Seaweed dug into the bed with compost at the beginning of the season is hightly recommended. Also, Seaweed Extract - I'm thinking that could be a good organic one to try if I can source it? I should have also taken the advice I read a while back about chicken manure pellets since the fox ate the fowl. I don't know if it would be too late for that now?
ladybutternut wrote (see)
Dovefromabove, that is so encouraging to know you got a crop even during a bad season, I had read as much but you do wonder... Italophile, thank you for that information about the comfrey fertiliser. It is going to be too late for me to make for this year but I shall research the leaf for next, definitely. I was up at 6.30 am doing my compost fertiliser as I knew I hadn't got time to get to the garden centre for a look around. The butternuts are probably doing well but their growth is nothing as quick as a month ago. I'm hoping pruning some of the excess growth will help.
Not a huge crop, if I remember correctly it was about 3 or 4 largeish squashes from two plants - but it was a crop - but the weather had been so awful people were telling me to pull them up as I had no chance of getting anything last year.
I also took off and cooked the smaller ones once the weather turned and there was no hope of them ripening - I cut them into quarters lengthwise and sort of braised them with courgettes and onions in olive oil, then wilted some ruby chard into the resulting concoction , added lots of black pepper and parmesan and served with spaghetti - it was fabulous
" I'm hoping pruning some of the excess growth will help."
Be careful when pruning, ladybutternut, I did this the other day and managed to cut off the branch with the biggest butternut! Follow the fruit back to where the stem starts before cutting anything off.
First year growing butternut squash I can only see one fruit at present in amongst an enormous amount of foliage ... Im going to put an upside down recycle bottle to mark the point of the main plant to water into ... lost the plot a bit where the plant started as I mulched with straw as well. Also pumpkins in same area ... brilliant ground cover but needs lots of space . Bit of advice on the male and female flower and what Im looking for would be good folks ... thank you