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I have some plants that have many flowers but not very many vegetables being produced; sometimes it seems as if I'm growing the plants for the pretty flowers and not for the vegetables that may eventually appear. The flowers look healthy, though sometimes it appears that they open up in the morning, look beautiful until about 2:00, then slowly die by the end of the evening.

I suspect lack of pollination is an issue. What types of things can I do to encourage pollination to occur? Is it possible that there are simply not enough bees/other pollinators in the area?

EDIT: In this particular case I'm referring to cucumber and zucchini plants, but I'd like to see if I can get information that will be helpful when I plant other types of flowering plants, like chilies, strawberries, or tomatoes.

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do they die or just close up for the night? My zuchinni flowers will have huge blooms during the early morning hours and in the afternoon they close up only to bloom back open again in the morning. –  wax eagle Jul 26 '11 at 16:52
    
@wax eagle: It's possible that they are simply closing for the night. I just assumed that they were dying since they shriveled up so tightly so early in the afternoon. I'll have to try to track individual flowers to see if they're actually dying. –  Michael Todd Jul 26 '11 at 16:54
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

This does sound like a pollination problem. There is a detailed article explaining how to hand-pollinate zucchini and cucumber plants here.

Briefly, to hand-pollinate your flowers:

  • Identify the female flowers (unlike the male ones, they have a small fruit behind them);

  • Gently remove a male flower from the vine, without touching the anthers (see diagram), and snip off some of the petals;

  • Brush the anthers over the middle of the female flower.

Although the bee population is in decline worldwide, there should still be enough of them to pollinate your crops. If you have the space, I think the best way forward is to plant flowers and shrubs that attract bees. Bee and butterfly favorites include, among many others, foxglove, poppy, lavender, viper's buglosss, comfrey, goldenrod, black-eyed susan, sweet william, larkspur, greater knapweed, evening primrose, fennel, salvia, sage and thyme. There are a number of very good suggestions here and here.

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@Mancuniensis, +1 for suggesting - plant pollinator friendly flowers & shrubs in or near the (vegetable) garden. –  Mike Perry Jul 26 '11 at 16:24
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