Q. I have hundreds of blossoms on my tomato, squash and etc. plants yet very little fruit. I have observed that there are no bees (I have only seen 3 at any one time) around. Is this normal? What can I do to correct this situation?
A. The lack of pollinators is rarely a problem for tomatoes because their blossoms are “perfect”, meaning they contain both male and female parts. Even a gentle breeze or movement of the plant stems will allow pollination to occur.
Squash can be pollinated by hand quite easily, so long as you can find male
blossoms. You must take a male blossom (the one WITHOUT a small fruit forming behind the flower), strip the petals off, then touch the tip, or stamen, to the pistil, or tip of the female blossom. One male can pollinate several females.
This must be done in the early morning, when both blossoms are fully open, or the blossom won’t be receptive to pollination.
Are you looking for bees in the early morning hours – before it heats up? That’s the most likely time for them to be active.
Attracting pollinators to your garden may be more difficult than pollinating squash yourself. You could buy a beehive and place that near your garden. Some people also plant flowers near their gardens in hopes of attracting bees, etc.
Another factor that could account for having very little fruit on plants is the temperature. This question was asked the first week of August, usually the hottest time of the year.
Extreme heat is often the cause of plants not being able to set fruit. They like temperatures below 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and when it’s above 95 there is very little fruit-set.
Also, unless night-time temperatures are at least 15-20 degrees lower than daytime temperatures some plants won’t set fruit.
To mitigate the heat problem consider applying partial shade to your plants during the few hottest hours of the day. This is best done by placing a 25%-35% shade cloth directly above the plants, such that it shades only during the hours from 11 A.M. to 3 P.M.