Home Vegetable Garden Techniques: Hand Pollination of Squash and Corn in Small Gardens

Ed Thralls and Danielle Treadwell

A small vegetable garden can provide homeowners with fresh, healthful food, assist household finances during a time of increasing food costs, and provide a family activity that is both recreational and educational (Figure 1).

Flowers from corn. Male flower “tassel” is on the left; note pollen grains on the anthers. Female flower “silks” -- or stigma -- are on the right.
Figure 6. Flowers from corn. Male flower “tassel” is on the left; note pollen grains on the anthers. Female flower “silks” -- or stigma -- are on the right.
Credit: E. Thralls, UF/IFAS

The female part of corn is the ears, which are edible. The ears are located lower on the stalks, just above the leaves, at the nodes. One to four ears per stalk is typical, depending on variety. The female flowers are the "silk" (Figure 6). The silk is the same stigma as in squash, but the stigma in corn is elongated. Each strand of silk corresponds to one kernel of corn. Pollination is achieved when pollen grains from the tassels above contact the silks at the nodes.

Two methods of pollen transfer may be used with corn. Cut an entire tassel, and use it as a wand, shaking pollen grains (dust) onto the silks. Alternatively, strip the tassel and deposit the pollen from the anthers directly onto the silks. Either way, the pollen is transferred. Be thorough when dusting the pollen onto the silks, so chances for a bountiful harvest are increased.


Bailey, L.H. 1971. Manual of Cultivated Plants. Macmillan and Company New York.

Sanford, Malcolm T. 1992. Beekeeping: Watermelon Pollination. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/AA091

Simonne, E.H., W.M. Stall, S.M. Olson, S.E. Webb, T.G. Taylor, S.A. Smith, R.N. Raid. 2007. Sweet Corn Production in Florida. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/CV135

Stephens, James M. 1994. Squash, Zucchini—Cucurbita pepo L. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/MV142

Wyman, Donald. 1987. Wyman's Gardening Encyclopedia, Second Edition. The Macmillan Company, New York.

Publication #HS1149

Date: 2017-11-06
Thralls, Edmund L
Treadwell, Danielle
Horticultural Sciences Department

Related Topics

Fact Sheet Homeowner

About this Publication

This document is HS1149, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date September 2008. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Ed Thralls, Extension agent II, UF/IFAS Extension Orange County; and Danielle Treadwell, assistant professor, Horticultural Sciences Deparment; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Edmund Thralls