The girls are starting to learn about seed saving and how cross pollination of similar species can alter the outcome of the resultant seeds and how to minimise associated problems.
Many types of vegetables can be grown to produce seed without any special treatment or isolation, whilst others need to be grown away from other varieties or protected from insects to stop transfer of pollen from unwanted parents.
Whilst i was there, they needed to pollinate a specific pumpkin variety so that they can save the seed for future seasons. The female flower was located whilst in bud, it was covered with a stocking. This allowed the flower to open whilst restricting insect visitors. Once the flower was completely open, pollen from a male flower was artificially transferred by hand from a couple of suitable inflorescences to the protected female flower.
The stocking was removed and the revealed anther of the male flower wiped over the stigma within the female flower to transfer as much pollen as possible before the stocking was replaced. The female flower will continue to grow and produce its resultant pumpkin fertilized only by the flower that was selected. Seed taken from this pumpkin should, in theory, be true to its parent plant.
The process was carried out early in the morning to maximise the volume of pollen in the male flower and also to minimise risk of inadvertent cross pollination by transfer of pollen grains from one male flower to another before being transferred to the female. To be sure that the female parts were ready to receive the pollen, the whole process was repeated on three successive mornings.