Pollinators Are Super Important If You Want To Eat Zucchini

female zucchini flower fertilized

The lucky one. The first female zucchini flower that was fertilized in my garden this year.

The movement to bring pollinators back to the garden is big. I’ve heard about it mainly through the concern over colony collapse disorder and the disappearance of bees from some parts of the United States. I think people generally support this movement. No one likes to hear about species in trouble, but do we really understand what pollinator decline means to us?

I’ve planted pollinator-attracting plants like lavender and coneflowers, but honestly, that was more because I like those flowers. But planting something specifically to attract bees to our garden? That sting? And that my husband is allergic to? I would say it wasn’t a burning priority. Everything in my garden seemed to be doing just fine with the number of pollinators we had.

And then I planted zucchini. The plants grew to be huge and lush. Leaves way bigger than my head. Beautiful green. And into August, I’d still only harvested one zucchini from four plants.

Google: Why aren’t my zucchini producing? Was it a fertilizer problem? Not enough water? Um, no. They’re not getting pollinated. As someone who’s only ever eaten zucchini from a grocery store, this part of the zucchini lifecycle story had missed me.

In my garden, I’d seen female flower after female flower shoot up and then die back because no bees were around to pollinate them. The moral of this story: Pollinators don’t just need us. We need them. I am embarrassed that I didn’t even think of this as a reason I wasn’t harvesting more zucchini. I’ve failed to realize how important pollinators are to us in practical, concrete terms. Another symptom of being disconnected with nature.

There is hand pollination, of course, but there’s a lot of pretty careful timing and vigilant watching required to catch a female flower when it’s open. How about we let nature do its job? Save the pollinators! Plant zinnia, lavender, monarda, butterfly bush, sunflower, scabiosa and coneflowers in your garden, along with your zucchini. Bonus: these plants are beautiful!

Check out Bee Better for information on what you can do to bring more pollinators (birds, bees and butterflies) to your garden. I’ll be planting some pollinator-friendly flowers closer to my raised gardens next year.

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