Zucchini and other cucurbits should be one of the most prolific plants in the garden. But, especially in small gardens, many squash plants bear small fruits which blacken at the flower end and quickly rot away. Lack of pollination causes rotting squash with black ends--without fertile seeds within, the plant casts off the new squash and tries again. If the right insects don't visit the garden at the right time, mature squash fruits could be rare.
Encouraging Native Bees
Encourage pollinating insects including honeybees, bumblebees, orchard bees and others by providing a variety of nectar-bearing plants. Broadcast wildflower seeds along fences. Set aside a corner of the yard as a wild area and stop mowing it. Plant ornamentals like trumpet vine--or any plant with a vase-shaped flower--to attract hummingbirds and other pollinators to the garden.
Include nectar-bearing plants in the garden. Scarlet runner beans, oregano and thyme all attract a variety of useful insects. Allow goldenrod, milkweed and butterfly weed to grow if you spot them along the border; each contributes to the popularity of the garden space.
Give squash plenty of growing room. Crowded plants grow under stress, becoming stunted and producing mostly male flowers. Female flowers could be hidden in dense foliage and never seen by foraging insects.
Limit pesticide use when vegetables bloom. Most pesticides kill beneficial insects as well as harmful insects and the effects linger in the garden.
Provide Nesting Boxes
Cut three 4-by-4-inch blocks of fir or pine eight inches long. With drill bits from 1/8 inch to 3/4 inch in diameter, bore holes to the full length of the bit in one end of the wood blocks. Drill as many holes as will fit--between six and 10 depending on the bit diameter. Different sizes of holes attract different species of bees.
Cut three sections of perforated metal plumbing strap 20 inches long--one strap for each nesting box. Screw the center of the strap to the top center of the block. Bend the strap down over each side and screw the strap securely to each side. Back up the screw heads with flat washers between the heads of the screws and the straps if needed.
Hang the nesting boxes beneath the eaves on the northeast corner of the house or from tree branches in full shade. Fasten the free ends of the straps to the supporting branch or woodwork with wood screws and flat washers.
About this Author
James Young began writing as a military journalist in Alaska and combat correspondent in Vietnam. His lifetime fascination with technical and manual arts yields decades of experience in electronics, turnery, blacksmithing, outdoor sports, woodcarving, joinery and sailing. Young's articles have been published in Tai Chi Magazine, Sonar 4 Ezine, The Marked Tree, Stars & Stripes, the SkinWalker Files and Fine Woodworking.